Tour Bus Driver Pleads Guilty to Killing Alaska Mayor and Mother In Downtown Washington Traffic Fatality
Driver Struck Two Pedestrians Crossing Pennsylvania Avenue
WASHINGTON – Gerard D. James, 46, of Baltimore, MD, pled guilty today to two counts of negligent homicide stemming from a traffic collision last December where he struck and killed two pedestrians, including the Mayor of Skagway, Alaska, announced U.S. Attorney Jessie K. Liu and Peter Newsham, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
James pled guilty in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia this morning. The plea calls for a sentence of up to two years in prison for causing each of the two deaths, for a total of up to four years. He will be sentenced on November 15, 2019, by the Honorable Danya Dayson.
The fatal traffic collision occurred on Thursday, December 19, 2018, at approximately 9:40 p.m. The victims, Skagway, Alaska mayor Monica Carlson, 61, and her 85-year-old mother, Cora Adams, had come to Washington to tour the White House Christmas decorations. Video from a DC Department of Transportation camera showed Mayor Carlson and Ms. Adams waiting to cross Pennsylvania Avenue NW at the corner of 7th Street near the National Archives. As the pedestrian signal changed, allowing the victims to cross, they walked north across Pennsylvania Avenue in the marked crosswalk. As the two were crossing, an Eyre Bus Company tour bus being driven north on 7th Street by the defendant, turned left onto Pennsylvania Avenue. The bus struck both pedestrians as they crossed. Both Mayor Carlson and Ms. Adams were taken to area hospitals where they died from their injuries.
The Eyre tour bus that the defendant was driving was equipped with cameras that captured video from two angles of the bus, a forward facing camera on the bus’s windshield and another mounted over the operator’s compartment. The forward position camera showed that as the bus traveled north towards the Pennsylvania Avenue intersection, southbound 7th Street traffic traveled through the intersection, indicating that when James executed the left turn onto Pennsylvania Avenue, the signal controlling his progress showed a left red arrow. The other camera, mounted over the operator’s compartment, showed that as James was turning left from 7th Street onto Pennsylvania Avenue, his cell phone rang and lit up. Simultaneously as James was turning left, he picked up the ringing cell phone with his left hand and transferred it to his right hand. As the video showed this, the impact of the striking of the two pedestrians could be heard on the video.
In announcing the plea, U.S. Attorney Liu and Chief Newsham commended the work of the officers and detectives who investigated the case from the Major Crash Investigations Unit of the Metropolitan Police Department. They also acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Investigative Analyst Zachary McMenamin, Paralegal Specialist Stephanie Siegerist and Victim/Witness Advocate Jennifer Clark.
Finally, they commended the work of Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward A. O’Connell, who prosecuted the case.