Driver enters Alford plea in fatal H Street crash

WASHINGTON — A Silver Spring, Maryland man has entered an Alford plea to charges of voluntary manslaughter and driving under the influence of PCP for the February death of a pedestrian in downtown D.C.

James Chandler’s plea is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that prosecutors had enough evidence to convict him. He entered the plea in D.C. Superior Court Thursday.

According to the U.S. attorney’s office, Chandler, 33, entered the plea because he was high on the drug PCP at the time of the crash and doesn’t remember what happened.

Investigators say that Chandler drove onto the sidewalk and hit a retaining wall outside the Government Accountability Office near the corner of 4th and H streets NW. The impact flipped and rolled the SUV he was driving and the vehicle hit Philip Snodgrass, 27, killing the lawyer who had been walking on the sidewalk.

Chandler was traveling almost 35 mph over the speed limit at the time of the wreck. Chandler never hit the brakes or attempted to avoid the crash, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

He had to be removed from the SUV, which landed on its side on the sidewalk.

He told a paramedic that he had smoked a PCP-laced cigarette earlier in the day. Blood tests confirmed that he had the drug in his system.

A second pedestrian was hospitalized. Chandler also struck two other vehicles as he speed along downtown streets.

He is set to be sentenced July 17. He faces a maximum prison sentence of 30 years for the voluntary manslaughter charge.

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