Cook pleads guilty to vehicular manslaughter

Prosecution asks court to sentence former Maryland bishop to 20 years in prison, with ten years suspended, for killing Thomas Palermo

The former suffragan Bishop of Maryland, Heather Cook, has pled guilty to manslaughter and accepted criminal responsibility for the death of a Baltimore cyclist whom she struck and killed while she was driving while intoxicated on 27 Dec 2014. Appearing in a Baltimore City Circuit Court on 8 Sept 2015, 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 the former bishop, who was deposed from the ministry of the Episcopal Church on 1 May 2015, be sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, with ten years of her sentence suspended, followed by five years probation. State Attorney Marilyn Mosby on 9 Jan 2015 told a press conference Cook was driving her car on Roland Avenue in Baltimore while intoxicated — her blood alcohol level was later recorded at .22 per cent, three times the state’s legal limit. She then began to text whilst driving and swerved out of the traffic lane onto the bicycle lane, striking cyclist Richard Palermo from behind. The collision propelled Palermo onto the hood and windshield of the car and then on to the pavement. The bishop then left the scene of the accident for approximately thirty minutes, Ms. Mosby said, and then returned to the scene of the collision but drove away again. She then returned to the scene a second time and was arrested by police. Bishop Cook was charged with 13 felony counts and after arraignment was released on bail of $2.5 million. 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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