For­mer bishop pleads guilty to man­slaugh­ter

The Church of England - - NEWS -

THE FOR­MER Suffragan Bishop of Mary­land, Heather Cook, pled guilty last week to man­slaugh­ter charges in a Bal­ti­more court and ac­cepted crim­i­nal re­spon­si­bil­ity for the death of a cy­clist.

On the af­ter­noon of Satur­day 27 De­cem­ber 2014 Cook was driv­ing on Roland Av­enue in Bal­ti­more, when she swerved out of the traf­fic lane into the cy­clist’s lane, strik­ing Thomas Palermo (41) from be­hind.

Palermo was pro­pelled onto the hood and wind­screen of the bishop’s car, be­fore land­ing onto the pave­ment.

Cook then fled the scene of the ac­ci­dent leav­ing Palermo to die in the street. She re­turned 30 min­utes later to the ac­ci­dent scene, be­fore leav­ing again.

She then re­turned to the scene of the ac­ci­dent a sec­ond time and was ar­rested by the po­lice.

Field so­bri­ety tests re­vealed the bishop was in­tox­i­cated and that her blood al­co­hol level was over three times the le­gal limit for mo­torists in Mary­land.

Wit­nesses to the ac­ci­dent also re­ported the bishop was tex­ting on her mo­bile phone when she swerved into the cy­clist lane.

Charged with 13 felony counts, Cook was re­leased on bail of $2.5 mil­lion. On 1 May 2015 the Epis­co­pal Church de­posed her from the or­dained min­istry. Af­ter her ar­rest it was re­vealed that Cook, whilst serv­ing as canon to the or­di­nary or chief as­sis­tant to the Bishop of Eas­ton, had been ar­rested and fined for drunk driv­ing.

Ap­pear­ing in a Bal­ti­more City Cir­cuit Court on 8 Septem­ber, one day ahead of her sched­uled trial, Cook (58) pled guilty to ve­hic­u­lar man­slaugh­ter, driv­ing un­der the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol, leav­ing the scene of a fa­tal ac­ci­dent and tex­ting while driv­ing.

Pros­e­cu­tors have asked she be sen­tenced to 20 years im­pris­on­ment, with 10 years of her sen­tence sus­pended, fol­lowed by five years pro­ba­tion. The ar­rest of Bishop Cook prompted the na­tional Epis­co­pal Church to re­view its poli­cies on al­co­hol, cul­mi­nat­ing in a se­ries of rec­om­men­da­tions set forth by the Gen­eral Con­ven­tion in June to ad­dress al­co­hol and sub­stance abuse and the use and pro­mo­tion of al­co­hol in church-re­lated events.

Sen­tenc­ing for Cook is sched­uled for later next month.

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