Man pleads guilty in death of Johns Hopkins student

… Thomas Meighan Jr. to be sentenced today on vehicular manslaughter charge …

By Tricia Bishop, The Baltimore Sun

10:22 AM EST, February 2, 2011

Thomas Lee Meighan Jr. is scheduled for sentencing this afternoon in the 2009 hit-and-run death of a Johns Hopkins student and an unrelated hit and run that same year.

Meighan, who’s been arrested for drinking and driving at least nine times, pleaded guilty to multiple counts Tuesday — including vehicular manslaughter — in Baltimore City Circuit Court. He had been scheduled for trial Jan. 27, but the courts were closed that day because of the snow.

The deal spared the family of victim Miriam Frankl from a difficult trial. Court documents suggested that the defense planned to blame the 20-year-old student for the crash.

“The pedestrian should have recognized the truck as an immediate danger and should have remained outside the roadway until it was safe to cross the street,” states an accident-reconstruction report filed last month by Assistant Public Defender Julie Shapiro.

It recreates the collision down to the impact, noting that Frankl’s body bounced back into a parked car “before coming to rest” after being struck that October day by an 2003 Ford F-250 truck. The report’s author claims “pedestrian error” led to the young woman’s death.

Defense lawyers said such a strategy was expected in the case.

“If they can’t prove that he caused the accident, then he can’t be convicted,” said Baltimore lawyer Brian G. Thompson.

Meighan, 40, was charged with 10 counts in the crash that killed Frankl, including automobile manslaughter, which would have required the state to show that he had a wanton and reckless disregard for human life — a difficult standard to prove, lawyers said.

A half-dozen witnesses told police that the driver of Meighan’s white truck took a terrifying trip through the city before striking Frankl about 3:20 p.m. on Oct. 16, 2009. The truck was spotted running red lights, tailgating other drivers and going the wrong way on a one-way street. At one point, the driver, identified by police as Meighan, got out to urinate alongside the vehicle while parked on Eastern Avenue.

Meighan had earlier denied any involvement in Frankl’s death, though the accident reconstruction report notes that there was damage to his truck “consistent with a vehicle-pedestrian collision.”

Meighan was also charged separately with 14 counts for a hit-and-run that occurred July 31, when he was arrested with a blood-alcohol level of 0.09 — above the legal limit of 0.08. The two cases were combined in court.

He is scheduled for sentencing today at 2 p.m.

Thomas Lee Meighan, Jr. pleaded guilty to multiple counts in two cases Tuesday: the Oct. 16, 2009 hit and run of Johns Hopkins Student Miriam Frankl, and an unrelated July 31 incident:

Oct. 16, 2009:

1. Vehicular Manslaughter

2. Hit and run resulting in death

3. Driving with a suspended license

4. Violating interlock restriction

5. Hit and run resulting in property damage (resulting from earlier accident on Belair Road).

July 31, 2009:

1. Driving under influence

2. Negligent driving

3. Felony hit and run resulting in serious bodily injury

4. Violating interlock restriction

5. Driving without insurance

SOURCE: Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office

Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun

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