A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge ruled last week that statements made by a man involved a police chase and fatal crash can be used against him during his trial.
Reeco R. Richardson, 19, of Washington, D.C., was interviewed by two police detectives in the hours after police pulled him from the fiery wreckage of car crash following a brief, high-speed police chase that ended in the Chevy Chase Circle on March 23. Police say Richardson was a passenger in the vehicle, which was stolen.
The detectives said they only were concerned with identifying the driver of the vehicle, who later died from his injuries in a county hospital March 28. Richardson's statements at the hospital also linked him to the theft of the car, attorneys said in a motions hearing in Montgomery County Circuit Court Thursday.
Donald R. Huskey and Governor E. Jackson, Richardson's defense attorneys, tried to have Richardson's statements barred from his trial, which is set to begin Wednesday, claiming the police coerced Richardson into implicating himself. Judge Robert A. Greenberg sided with Assistant State's Attorney Steve Chaikin ruling Richardson's statements were freely given to police.
"There is just no credible evidence from a constitutional standpoint that his free will was overridden in any way," Greenberg said, refusing to take what he called "the cynical view" that the detectives intended to charge Richardson all along.
Tod Muollo, a detective in the Montgomery County police auto theft unit, was the second detective to interview Richardson in his hospital room and again shortly after Richardson turned himself in on charges of unlawfully taking a vehicle, theft of more than $1,000, unauthorized removal of property and rouge and vagabond. Richardson turned himself in April 24, the same day charges were filed.
"When I went in there and I was talking to him I had no intention of charging him," Muollo said at the hearing. "I wanted to find out who the driver of the vehicle was."
Both backseat passengers of the vehicle, brothers Emanuel Nelson, 16, and Tyree Nelson, 14, died in the fire sparked by the crash while the driver, Reynard Osman, 16, died from his injuries in a county hospital March 28. Richardson gave police information about the other occupants and confirmed he knew the car was stolen before he accepted a ride from Osman earlier that day, police said.
Richardson denied having taken part in the theft of the vehicle, a Toyota Echo, but he still can be charged with the theft simply by being a passenger in the car, police said.
Huskey and Jackson filed a $10 million lawsuit against the Montgomery County police just two days after Richardson was charged. The suit claims at least one police cruiser rammed the Echo during the chase, sending the car careening into a tree in the traffic circle.
Richardson declined to discuss the circumstances of the crash when Muollo interviewed him after he turned himself in, stating he would not talk about the crash unless his attorneys were present, Muollo testified Thursday. Richardson did tell Muollo that police could have prevented the crash.
“He said the police could have prevented the crash, that they had four or five cruisers and they could have surrounded the vehicle and stopped them at a traffic light [before the pursuit began],” Muollo said.
Greenberg limited Huskey and Jackon's attempts to bring evidence in the civil case into Richardson's criminal motions hearing last week. A deadline for discovery to be filed in the civil case is set for December and a round of motions hearings will take place in February leading up to a pre-trial hearing in March, according to court documents.