A District man was released on 18 months probation for his role in a car theft that led to a high speed police chase and fatal crash in Chevy Chase in March.
Reeco R. Richardson, 19, of the 3100 block of Georgia Ave. in Northwest, was the only survivor of the fiery crash that ended the chase at around 1:30 a.m. March 23 in the Chevy Chase Circle. While Richardson cooperated with police in providing the names of the other young men who died in the crash and claimed that he did not steal the vehicle, he was charged with unlawfully taking a motor vehicle, theft and rogue and vagabond charges a few days after the crash when the driver, 16-year-old Reynard Osman, died in the hospital March 28.
Richardson was convicted of the unlawful taking of a motor vehicle and one count of rogue and vagabond after an October trial, and faced a maximum sentence of eight years in jail and a $5,000 fine at his sentencing before Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Nelson Rupp Wednesday.
“The judge seemed moved by Mr. Richardson’s statement to the court that he wanted to help other young people upon his release,” said Donald R. Huskey, one of Richardson’s defense attorneys, after the hearing. “It’s really a very, very good result for him, the judge watched the trial and understood that the jury was very conflicted on a number of counts.”
Richardson’s probation will be unsupervised and, if he does not face another criminal conviction during the 18 months, he will likely not have a criminal conviction on his record, Huskey added. Ramon Korionoff, a spokesman for the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, called the crash a “tragedy” but added that the prosecution did not oppose the judge’s sentence, particularly because, if Richardson violates his probation, he will still be held accountable.
“Hopefully, Mr. Richardson will recognize that he was given a second chance at life,” Korionoff said. “If he changes his behavior and becomes a more productive citizen then the lessons from this traumatic incident were learned well.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Stephen Chaikin, who prosecuted the case, also pointed out that Rupp’s sentence will require Richardson to undergo substance abuse treatment and mental health evaluations and treatment, strengthening Richardson’s chances for rehabilitation.
Richardson’s $5 million lawsuit against the county police and others remains ongoing, with Richardson maintaining that the crash was caused by a police cruiser that collided with the stolen vehicle in the circle. Though Richardson’s criminal sentencing Wednesday was separate from his civil trial, which is scheduled to begin in March, his sentence could help his chances in the lawsuit, Huskey said.
“This means that Mr. Richardson will not go into the civil trial as someone who has been convicted of a crime,” Huskey said. “He will go in as a person who was simply sitting in a car.”
Paul F. Leonard, the attorney who is defending the county in Richardson’s lawsuit, declined to comment on any impact Richardson’s sentence may have on his civil case.
Chaikin was similarly hesitant to comment on Richardson’s civil case, but he did mention that the evidence presented during the criminal trial will be similar to aspects of the arguments likely to come up in the lawsuit.
“I can say that there was no evidence presented at trial of any police vehicles ever touching the stolen vehicle,” he said.