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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Columbia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, July 26, 2013

District Woman Sentenced To Seven Years In Prison For Traffic Fatality In Southwest Washington-Impaired Driver Struck Pedestrian, Who Died After She Was Pinned To A Tree-

     WASHINGTON – Maria N. Werts, 49, of Washington, D.C., was sentenced today to seven years in prison on charges stemming from a traffic fatality last spring in Southwest Washington, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.

     Werts pled guilty in May 2013 in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia to involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence. The plea, which was contingent upon the court’s approval, called for the seven-year prison term. The Honorable Herbert B. Dixon, Jr. accepted the plea and sentenced Werts today. Upon completion of her prison term, Werts will be placed on five years of supervised release.

     According to the government’s evidence, on Sunday afternoon, April 28, 2013, Werts was drinking malt liquor and smoking crack cocaine immediately before getting behind the wheel of a 2010 Toyota Yaris.  While driving on First Street SW, at about 2:45 p.m., Werts ran a red light at the intersection of South Capitol Street, making an illegal right turn on red. A southbound driver on South Capitol Street had to swerve to avoid colliding with Werts.

     Werts lost control of the Toyota she was driving, and mounted the sidewalk adjacent to the southbound lanes of South Capitol Street.  The victim, Emmajean Gainey, 58, was walking on that sidewalk with another pedestrian.  Both Ms. Gainey and her companion attempted to avoid being struck by Werts, but Werts struck Ms. Gainey head on, and pinned Ms. Gainey against a tree between the sidewalk and the roadway.  Ms. Gainey was killed instantly.

     Bystanders immediately called 911, and attempted to push the Toyota from Ms. Gainey’s body.  Witnesses saw Werts get out of the Toyota’s driver’s seat and attempt to leave the scene.  Werts was stopped by witnesses until police arrived. When police arrived, they administered field sobriety tests, which Werts failed. Werts was arrested and, while at a police station, breath tests indicated that her blood alcohol content was above the legal limit for driving.  Werts later admitted to drinking alcohol and smoking cocaine immediately prior to getting into the car.  While she denied driving the car, stating that she was merely a passenger, several eyewitnesses identified Werts on the scene as the driver responsible for Ms. Gainey’s death. 

     In announcing the sentence, U.S. Attorney Machen praised those who investigated the case for the Metropolitan Police Department, including members of the Major Crash Unit.  He also expressed appreciation for those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialists Sandra Lane, Shavaka Melvin and Phil Aronson.  Finally, he commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward A. O’Connell, who prosecuted the matter.

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Updated February 19, 2015