Saturday, October 1, 2011
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Sean Kevin Fitzgibbon, 28, pleaded guilty to automobile manslaughter in the death of Robert Francis Burdette, 74, of Clinton, before Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge William C. Mulford II. Assistant State's Attorney Brian Marsh said prosecutors intend to seek a jail term followed by five years of supervised probation when Fitzgibbon is sentenced in September.
Outside the courtroom, John Hutchinson said no sentence can soften the loss of the uncle he affectionately called "Dad," who helped raise him since birth and with whom he and his single mother lived.
"He spent most of his day taking care of others," said Hutchinson, a resident of Mechanicsville. On the morning of the crash, Burdette was driving from Clinton to Dunkirk to help a disabled man he knew from church get out of bed and ready for work, Hutchinson said. Burdette generally drove the man to work at the Internal Revenue Service in Washington, returned to Clinton at 6:30 a.m., did custodial work at the Clinton United Methodist Church, then drove back to Washington around 2 p.m. to bring his friend home to Dunkirk.
Hutchinson said that since retiring from work as a cashier supervisor at an A&P grocery store, Burdette also helped several neighbors with shopping and medical appointments. After Burdette's death, others have told him of Burdette's kindness toward them, Hutchinson said.
Mulford is expected to hear about the victim at sentencing.
State sentencing guidelines recommend up to two years in jail. A typical sentence for a first-time offender in the county is no more than 18 months. Hutchinson said he hoped state legislators would increase penalties for automobile manslaughter.
About 2:30 a.m. last Oct. 7, Fitzgibbon's Chevrolet Malibu, estimated by witnesses to be going 80 mph in a 55-mph zone, rear-ended Burdette's pickup truck on rain-slickened southbound Route 4 near Plummer Lane in Lothian, launching the pickup into a tree. Burdette died Nov. 1 after 25 days in intensive care in Prince George's Hospital Center, said Carol Hutchinson, the wife of Burdette's nephew.
Fitzgibbon's blood-alcohol level was 0.21 percent at the time of the crash, more than twice the level required for a drunken-driving conviction. Defense lawyer Kevin Joyce said Fitzgibbon was waiting to be called for Navy boot camp, but the crash likely ended his enlistment. Fitzgibbon, who has been on house arrest since he was charged in March, acknowledged having an alcohol problem and completed an outpatient treatment program, Joyce said.
The Burdette family's civil suit against Fitzgibbon is pending.