ROCKVILLE, Md. — A Montgomery County teen has pleaded guilty to two charges of vehicular manslaughter just days before he was set to go to trial on charges stemming from the June 2015 crash that killed two teens and injured a third.
Samuel Ellis, 19, of Gaithersburg, entered the guilty plea Friday morning in Montgomery County Circuit Court. Additional charges he faced have been dropped.
He was set to face a jury trial beginning Monday for two charges of homicide by a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and one count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated causing a life-threatening injury in addition to the vehicular manslaughter charges.
In a statement to WTOP, Ellis’ attorney Mike McAuliffe said that his client was remorseful during the hearing.
Ellis was 18 at the time of the North Potomac crash that killed 18-year-old passengers Calvin Li and Alexander Murk. All three teens had just graduated from Thomas S. Wootton High School in Rockville.
A 17-year-old passenger was hurt but survived the crash. Ellis, who was driving, was also hospitalized from injuries he suffered in the wreck.
The car Ellis was driving hit a fence and slammed into a tree before ending up in the front yard of a home. Speed and alcohol contributed to the crash, police said.
According to court documents, Ellis had a blood alcohol level of 0.09 percent, which is slightly above the legal limit of 0.08 percent. Police found cold beverage containers in the severely damaged car.
The teens attended an underage drinking party in North Potomac before the crash. The 49-year-old host of that party later pleaded guilty to two counts of allowing underage drinking at his home.
The case spurred legislation this year that would toughen the penalties for adults who host underage drinking parties or knowingly provide alcohol to teens.
Ramon Korionoff, spokesman for the Montgomery County state’s attorney’s office, said that no favors were given to Ellis but that prosecutors are pleased with the result. “It was a straight up plea.”
Ellis faces up to 10 years in prison for each count. Prosecutors have not said how much prison time they would seek.
Sentencing is set for June 3.
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