Maryland Man Pleads Guilty to Voluntary Manslaughter In Traffic Fatality in Downtown Washington
Driver Under Influence of PCP Struck Pedestrian, Who Was Walking on Sidewalk
WASHINGTON – James B. Chandler, Jr, 33, of Silver Spring, Md., pled guilty today to voluntary manslaughter and driving under the influence of PCP, stemming from a recent traffic fatality in Washington, D.C., Acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen, Jr. announced.
Chandler pled guilty in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, in an Alford plea. Under such a plea, the defendant does not admit the allegations but agrees that the government has enough evidence to secure a conviction; Chandler entered an Alford plea because of his intoxication by PCP at the time of the crash and his inability to recollect events. The Honorable Robert E. Morin scheduled sentencing for July 17, 2015. Chandler faces a statutory maximum of 30 years in prison for the voluntary manslaughter charge. He has been in custody since his arrest.
According to the government’s evidence, on Monday, Feb. 23, 2015, at about 4:50 p.m., during downtown Washington’s rush hour, Chandler drove his SUV at a high rate of speed west on H Street NW, between 2nd and 4th Streets, striking two other vehicles without stopping. As Chandler approached the intersection with 4th Street NW, he crossed over into H Street’s eastbound lanes. Chandler crossed 4th Street and struck the southeast curb of the corner of 4th and H Streets, mounted the sidewalk and struck the retaining wall of the Government Accountability Office (GAO) building. By crashing into the wall, Chandler caused his SUV to flip and roll several times along the south sidewalk of the 400 block of H Street, striking and killing Philip D. Snodgrass, 27, who had been walking on the sidewalk.
The District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) arrived on the scene and removed Chandler from the wreck. Chandler admitted to a paramedic that he had smoked a PCP-laced cigarette that day.
Surveillance video, which captured footage of the crash, was examined and it was estimated that Chandler was driving at a speed approaching 60 mph in the 25 mph zone. The video, as well as examination of the crash scene, also indicated that Chandler never attempted to apply his brakes or take any action to avoid the crash.
Mr. Snodgrass was taken to the Washington Hospital Center, where he was pronounced dead. Chandler was taken to Howard University Hospital for treatment. While at the hospital, Chandler was examined by an officer with the MPD’s Driver Impairment Unit, who determined that Chandler was under the influence of a narcotic. Also while at the hospital, Chandler’s blood was drawn, which later tested positive for PCP.
In announcing the plea, Acting U.S. Attorney Cohen praised those who investigated the case for the Metropolitan Police Department, including members of the Major Crash Investigations Unit, the Driver Impairment Unit and the First District. He also expressed appreciation for those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialist Sandra Lane and Victim/Witness Advocate Jennifer Clark. Finally, he commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward A. O’Connell, who is prosecuting the matter.