ST. ALBANS CITY — A former Burlington police officer involved in a fatal crash pleaded guilty to two felony charges Tuesday morning.
Leanne Werner, 31, faced six charges – grossly negligent operation with a fatality resulting; grossly negligent operation with an injury resulting; two versions of DUI with a fatality resulting; and two versions of DUI with an injury resulting – following a July 2015 crash that took the life of 74-year-old Omer Martin. His wife, Jane, survived the Lower Newton Road crash.
The DUI charges against Werner have been dismissed as part of her plea agreement, leaving just the two negligent operation charges.
Each felony charge carries a potential prison sentence of up to 15 years. Werner’s attorney, Francis J. Twarog, said that per the plea agreement, Werner expects to serve two to 12.
Twarog told Franklin County Superior Court Judge A. Gregory Rainville attorneys “have spent a long period of time addressing admissible evidence that would be considered at trial.”
Rainville’s predecessor, Judge Robert A. Mello, ruled that a breath test indicating Werner’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .081, .001 above the legal limit, was inadmissible in court because the officer administering the test did not read Werner her Miranda rights prior to doing so. That left one admissible breath test, administered after Werner was read her rights — but that only showed a BAC of .074, below the legal limit.
State prosecutors amended the charges against Werner in August, adding more felony charges, based on an affidavit from a state chemist who used basic physiology and Werner’s official statements to calculate that Werner’s BAC would actually have been 0.098 at the time of the crash — well above the legal limit.
The case is now set for a contested sentence hearing, tentatively scheduled eight weeks from now. Werner’s sentence will be decided then.
Rainville made sure Werner understood her plea.
“So you’re not contesting that Jane Martin suffered serious bodily injury as a result of your actions,” he said, “and that Omer Martin died as a result of these actions.”
“No,” Werner replied, voice quiet and breaking.
Martin died from his injuries shortly after the accident at the University of Vermont Medical Center. His wife, Jane, suffered a broken hand, as well as multiple fractions and abrasions.
Friends of the family gathered in the courtroom, audibly distressed by the case’s prolongation, with a sentence still unreached.
Yet one man, walking out of the courtroom, could only smile at reporters as he remembered Martin.
“Omer was a peaceful warrior,” he said.