In better days, former Centreville resident Mathew M. Roman, 27, was a promising, young, Fairfax County police officer. He'd graduated from the Criminal Justice Academy and was a new patrol officer in the Mount Vernon District Station.
But all that ended on a summer night in 2000, when he got behind the wheel of a car after consuming seven alcoholic drinks. He then stuck a female pedestrian with his car, drove off and left her lying on a Washington, D.C., street. Now Roman is a convicted felon, sentenced Friday to a year in jail for aggravated assault.
Ironically, in the year prior to the crash, he'd received police training in the area of drunk driving and alcohol's effects on drivers. He was taught how to administer field sobriety tests and learned the impacts that various levels of intoxication have on motorists. But all that fell by the wayside in the early morning hours of Friday, Aug. 4, 2000.
According to the U.S. Attorney's office in D.C., "In the hours preceding the crash, witnesses saw Roman consume at least seven drinks — two beers, a glass of wine and four mixed drinks. Just after midnight on Aug. 4, Roman and a date decided to go to Roman's apartment in Centreville. Roman's date asked him if he was sober enough to drive, and Roman said he was."
He then began driving his Volkswagen Jetta south on Wisconsin Avenue. However, around 12:38 a.m., Janet Kurland, 21, of Sharon, Conn., was leaving a club in the 2200 block of Wisconsin Ave., N.W., with two friends. Just south of the intersection of Wisconsin and Hall Street, they began to walk across Wisconsin Avenue from east to west.
Kurland's female friend crossed the street first, followed by Kurland's boyfriend and, finally, by Kurland. Police said the street was well-lit and dry at the time. Suddenly, Kurland's boyfriend saw the Jetta heading toward the victim and he screamed for her to get out of the way.
However, Roman's car struck Kurland with "substantial force," according to prosecutors, hitting her legs, propelling her head into the car's windshield and careening her back in front of the car. Roman then got out of his car, told his date he was going for help and left the scene of the crash.
He headed southbound on Wisconsin Avenue on foot, turning right on W Street, and disappeared. Meanwhile, bystanders at the scene called 911. Kurland was unconscious and not breathing. Her friend administered CPR and, with the aid of a doctor, her airway was cleared, enabling her to breathe.
However, she was still unconscious while rushed by ambulance to Georgetown University Medical Center, where she was admitted in critical condition. (Later upgraded to serious, Kurland was eventually released).
About an hour after the crash, at 1:31 a.m., Roman called 911 from a pay phone on the Georgetown University Campus. Police there then notified the Metropolitan Police Department that a man claiming to have been involved in a motor-vehicle accident was on campus.
D.C. police then conducted field-sobriety tests on Roman and determined that he was intoxicated. His breath alcohol concentration was .14, well above the legal limit of .08. Police arrested him and charged him with two misdemeanors — driving while intoxicated (DWI) and leaving after colliding.
But the Metropolitan Police Department's Major Crash Investigations Unit continued looking into the matter. On Sept. 27, 2000, a D.C. Superior Court grand jury indicted Roman on felony charges of aggravated assault while armed and assault with a dangerous weapon. He was also charged with leaving the scene of a collision and driving while intoxicated.
He'd been with the Fairfax police force for less than a year when the incident occurred and tendered his resignation shortly after his arrest. He was hired in September 1999 and attended the police academy until spring 2000. Assigned to the Mount Vernon District Station, he rode with another patrol officer there for 10 weeks of field training, before being allowed to operate on his own.
Roman appeared Feb. 14 of this year in D.C. Superior Court, and the DWI charge against him was dismissed. But he pleaded guilty to aggravated assault stemming from the hit-and-run. He returned to court last Friday, April 26, for sentencing on that charge and, according to a plea agreement, all the other charges against him were dismissed.
Judge Patricia Broderick sentenced Roman to a term of two to six years in prison, suspending all but one year. She also placed him on 18 months probation and ordered him to complete 100 hours of community service. Since his arrest, he's moved to Bethlehem, Pa., and will be allowed to surrender to authorities next month to begin his sentence.