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Virginia truck driver switches plea just before trial

A defense attorney looks for ways to mitigate a defendant's legal burden. Criminal charge dismissals or reductions are sought and, in case of probable convictions, work turns toward easing penalties. Plea deals can accomplish these tasks, but only when the defendant's best interests are served.

A cross-country truck driver was involved in an October 2011 out-of-state accident. The 54-year-old Virginia man was charged with involuntary manslaughter for the deaths of three people: a couple whose car had broken down and a tow truck driver assisting the pair. A trial set for January was moved after the defendant missed a court date due to bad weather, but the failure to appear cost him his freedom.

The defendant was jailed to await a rescheduled trial. Just before the case was ready to be heard by a jury, the truck driver changed his plea. The man accepted an agreement with prosecutors, which limited the criminal charges against the defendant.

The accident occurred along a highway, where a couple's Buick was disabled. A state trooper responded to the couple's emergency call and offered to wait with them until a tow truck arrived. The trooper was assured he didn't have to stay.

The tow truck operator arrived and was working on the car, with the couple standing nearby, when the defendant's tractor-trailer struck the Buick and pushed the car into the tow truck. The couple was killed and the tow truck operator died a few hours after hospitalization. The trucker told a judge he was driving faster than the speed limit and had been on the road longer than regulations allowed. He said he attempted to stop by hitting the brakes 200 feet before the crash.

The plea agreement included a joint recommendation by attorneys for four-year, concurrent sentences with early parole for each manslaughter count. Judges aren't obligated to follow plea deal terms, although the agreement can influence final rulings.

Source: Elko Daily Free Press, "Rosenbaum pleads guilty to three manslaughter charges" Dylan Woolf Harris, Mar. 25, 2014

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