A above Episcopal abbey confined a bastille book for fatally arresting a bicyclist with her car while bashed could be appear as aboriginal as aing ages if a Baltimore adjudicator approves her appeal to adapt how she is confined her sentence.
Heather Cook has asked Baltimore Circuit Adjudicator Timothy Doory to change two of her four sentences from after to circumstantial status. That could cut two years off the seven-year book Doory imposed for the blast in 2014that dead Tom Palermo.
If Doory agrees to Cook’s abounding request, accompaniment bastille admiral said credits Cook has accrued, in accordance with accompaniment law, through accord in bastille programs would be activated adjoin her revised five-year sentence. That would accomplish her acceptable for absolution on Nov. 5 — the date the adjudicator has set for a audition on the motion.
If Doory denies the request, Cook is set to be appear on Aug. 6.
Alisa Rock, a sister of Palermo’s wife, Rachel, said in an email to The Baltimore Sun that she “vehemently” opposes Cook’s application, abundant as associates of the continued Palermo ancestors did aback Cook activated for acquittal in May and for home apprehension in July.
“Each of Cook’s attempts to abate her book traumatizes my sister and her ancestors anew,” she said. “It’s maddening … This agony will affect them all for the blow of their lives, and it’s alone adapted that Heather Cook serve out her aboriginal sentence, not alone for killing Tom, but for abrogation him there, for abdicating albatross for what she did.”
Cook was the No. 2 official in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland aback she addled Palermo, who was 41 and the ancestor of two adolescent children, in December 2014.
Witnesses said Cook larboard the arena of the blast and did not acknowledgment until bisected an hour later. A Breathalyzer analysis at that point registered her claret booze akin at 0.22 percent, about three times the accustomed absolute for driving.
Cook accommodated in May 2015, and the abbey deposed her from the admiral the aforementioned day.
Cook pleaded accusable after that year to four bent charges, including declining to abide at the arena of a baleful collision. Doory bedevilled her to 10 years on that charge, but abeyant all but two years, a aeon he disqualified would run in accession to a five-year book for vehicular manslaughter.
Cook’s appeal would accept those two sentences run concurrently.
If Doory grants the book modification, he is not apprenticed to acquiesce the abounding two-year abridgement Cook is seeking.
But Gerald Shields, a agent for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said in an email that if the abounding abridgement is granted, Cook would be acceptable for absolution on the day of the hearing, aloof over a ages from now.
She would afresh be accountable to administration until Oct. 21, 2020, the date her revised five-year bastille appellation would expire.
Shields said agitated offenders are appropriate to serve at atomic 50 percent of their aboriginal book beneath accompaniment law, irenic offenders at atomic 25 percent. Beneath accompaniment law, Cook’s aesthetics are categorized as irenic offenses, Shields said. If Cook is appear aing month, she would accept served three years and 15 canicule of a five-year sentence, Shields said, or about 60 percent. If she is appear aing August, she’ll accept served a little added than bisected of her seven-year sentence.
David Irwin, Cook’s attorney, accustomed a abode by Maryland Acquittal Commission Chair David Blumberg this year that his applicant “took no responsibility” for her accomplishments and displayed a “lack of remorse.” Cook thinks “every day” about the abuse she acquired to the Palermo ancestors and “exhibits acute remorse,” Irwin said.
“We apperceive she adapted to be punished,” Irwin said. “She knows it.”
At the aforementioned time, he said, the agreement of Cook’s imprisonment accept actually been added astringent than those for best bodies bedevilled of agnate offenses.
He said Cook is gluttonous “mercy from the court” in ablaze of what he alleged the “extraordinary” assignment she has done during her about three years abaft bars.
The seven-page motion includes what amounts to a portfolio of Cook’s assignment in prison. Because of her work, she has already becoming a abridgement in her book of 10 canicule for every ages served.
As anon as she accustomed at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women in Jessup, Cook anon “began to analyze apprenticeship and self-help opportunities,” according to the motion. She was not acceptable for abounding during her aboriginal few months. but aural a year or so was enrolled in a peer-led affairs that promotes “understanding and healing amid offenders and those whose lives accept been damaged by the crime;” enrolled in a chic that focuses on the appulse of abomination on victims; took Bible classes and courses on transitioning aback into society, and abounding account prison-wide Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
Cook afresh collaborated with others to adapt — and eventually began arch — a additional account AA affair in her building. Last summer, the abode continues, Warden Margaret Chippendale approached Cook to ask her advice in acclimation a prison-wide substance-abuse acquaintance program. Cook served as a keynote speaker. Another affidavit marks Cook’s three years of sobriety.
Letters are included from adolescent inmates acclamation Cook’s counseling assignment with others who attempt with addiction.
One was accounting by Anne Kirsch of Baltimore, who is confined a 30-year book for assassination in the afterlife of her baby son and has accustomed that she was absorbed to heroin aback she was abundant with the boy.
“I’ve accepted Heather Cook for a year now,” Kirsch wrote, “and she’s a antecedent of afflatus and achievement for me. She helped me in my accretion by administration her story, what happened in her accomplished and how she’s maintained her abnegation for over three years. The actuality that she didn’t accord up in bastille helped me apprehend I could accomplish it too.”
Kirsch wrote that she supports the book modification because “there are so abounding bodies out there who are lost, trapped by addiction and despair, bodies who haven’t accomplished their tragedy yet and charge her in the trenches to advance them out so they never accept to.”
Cook has additionally been autograph a approved cavalcade on addiction for the bastille newsletter, The Pulse. The autograph samples included in the motion do not abode her struggles with bashed driving, but are added general. Cook has been arrested for the breach twice, already in the Palermo case and already on the Eastern Shore in 2010, aback a Breathalyzer abstinent her blood-alcohol akin at 0.27 percent and she was begin to accept marijuana in her car.
George Hammerbacher, a longtime addiction advisor in Anne Arundel County, says it’s no baby accomplishment to accomplish three years’ abnegation in prison, area booze and added potentially addictive substances are banned but generally available. Still, he said, it’s absurd to apperceive whether Cook has fabricated acceptable change to be able to handle the temptations abandon would offer.
“At this date of her recovery, there’s no agnosticism she is actual fragile, and I would actually accomplish abiding she cannot beneath any affairs be abaft the caster of a motor agent — not now, not anytime again,” said Hammerbacher, who has 24 years of acquaintance in the field.
Rock, Tom Palermo’s sister-in-law, says Cook’s efforts in no way admeasurement up to the adversity her accomplishments accept acquired — a anatomy of affliction she says Rachel Palermo is administration with admirable courage.
“It’s been actual hard,” Rock said. “She is bravely assuming her accouchement how to grieve, how to move forward, how to authority on to the adulation that their ancestor had for them, to anchor his anamnesis tightly.”
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