SNOW HILL — A Berlin man, convicted in 2018 of negligent homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence after a fatal hit-and-run collision involving a bicyclist, could see his sentence reduced after a state appeals court vacated his sentence on one of the salient elements of his appeal.
In November 2018, after two days, 100 exhibits and testimony from four experts, a Worcester County jury found Jonathan Kidder, now 61, guilty on all six counts against him from the May 2018 incident when he struck and killed a bicyclist on Route 589 before leaving the scene. Just minutes later, the impaired Kidder caused another accident on Route 50 in West Ocean City.
Kidder was convicted of negligent homicide by motor vehicle and for that count he was sentenced to 10 years, five or which were suspended. On count three, failure to immediately stop at the scene of an accident involving death, Kidder was sentenced to 10 years, with five years suspended, which was to be served consecutively to the negligent homicide count.
Kidder than filed an appeal with the state Court of Special Appeals, challenging various aspects of the trial, jury selection and other elements of the case. Kidder posed five different questions in the appeal. The Court of Special Appeals dismissed four of the appeal questions, but agreed with Kidder on one of them, which could result in a reduction of his sentence.
In the appeal, Kidder contended his enhanced sentence for the leaving the scene of an accident involving death was illegal because he wasn’t charged with an essential element in the count. Essentially, he contends the charging document for that count was missing one key word — knowledge. Kidder contends he lacked knowledge that he caused an accident involving death, therefore, the enhanced sentence for that charge was illegal. The appeals court agreed.
“The state’s failure to charge Mr. Kidder with knowledge left the court without jurisdiction to sentence him for a crime that included that element,” the opinion reads. “The state did not give Mr. Kidder any notice that intended to pursue an enhanced penalty based on knowledge. Therefore, Mr. Kidder didn’t have the opportunity to prepare before trial to defend himself. And, without a charge that included knowledge, the court couldn’t impose the enhanced sentence. Mr. Kidder’s enhanced sentence is illegal and must be vacated.”
Under Maryland’s transportation article, “The driver of each vehicle involved in an accident that results in the death of another person immediately shall stop the vehicle as close as possible to the scene of the accident.” The maximum penalty for a conviction on that charge is five years and/or a $5,000. However, Kidder was sentenced to the enhanced penalty of 10 years. The element of “knowledge” was not included in the charging documents. Instead, a discussion of the enhanced penalty was brought up between the parties during trial prior to jury instructions.
“In this case, the omission from the charging document violated Mr. Kidder’s substantive rights, so we reverse the sentence imposed for count three- failure to stop at the scene of an accident involving death- and remand for sentencing on that count for a term not to exceed the statutory maximum of five years and $5,000,” the opinion reads.
Again, the high court affirmed the remaining convictions, so the 10-year sentence for negligent homicide with five years suspended still stands. However, the sentencing for the leaving the scene count has been reversed and sent back to Worcester County Circuit Court for resentencing.
On May 6, 2008, Kidder was driving while intoxicated when he struck and killed another Berlin man on a bicycle on Route 589. Kidder fled the scene and was involved in another accident on Route 50 in West Ocean City about 10 minutes later and fled that scene on foot.
Around 10:10 p.m. on May 6, 2018, Maryland State Police (MSP) troopers responded to the motor vehicle collision involving a bicyclist in the area of Route 589 and Gum Point Road near Ocean Pines. Upon arrival, MSP troopers determined the operator of the bicycle had suffered severe trauma.
The bicyclist, later identified as Jose Eduardo Madrid-Pineda, 38, of Berlin, a Honduran national, was transported to Atlantic General Hospital where he was pronounced deceased. Kidder fled the scene of the fatal accident. After Kidder was involved in the fatal accident that killed the bicyclist on Route 589 near Gum Point Road, he fled leaving damaged parts to his vehicle at the scene including a broken side view mirror and broken part of the grill.
About nine minutes later, Kidder was involved in a second unrelated accident near Route 50 and Keyser Point Road. According to witnesses, Kidder got out of his vehicle at the second accident and reportedly said things to those involved in the accident something to the effect that he was so drunk and needed to get out of there, and that he had just ruined his life.