Judge Won't Reconsider Sentence

Judge Won't Reconsider Sentence

In September 2004, a jury convicted Centreville's Quentin J. Jones of aggravated involuntary manslaughter and recommended he serve 36 years in prison. Instead, when Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen MacKay sentenced him in January, she gave him 25 years.

Not satisfied, Jones returned to court Friday with a new attorney to ask MacKay to reconsider his case. But in the end, she denied his motion.

THE INCIDENT for which Jones was sentenced was for driving so recklessly — while trying to elude police pursuing him for speeding — that he crashed into the vehicle of a 40-year-old father of two and killed him.

At his sentencing, Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Adriana Eberle said it was lucky Jones only took one man's life that night. "His driving behavior was unbelievably horrible," she said. "Everyone who saw the car coming testified that they braced themselves because they knew something bad was going to happen."

The victim was Soo Chang Yang, a grocery-store clerk who lived in Centreville's Belle Pond Farm community. He was driving through an intersection with a green light, on his way home from work, Nov. 22, 2003, when Jones slammed into him.

During Jones' three-day trial for aggravated involuntary manslaughter and three related charges, law-enforcement officers and other witnesses testified about his egregious driving, that night. Virginia State Trooper Joshua Korson clocked him on radar at 82 mph at the I-66 east intersection with the Fairfax County Parkway crossover.

Jones was driving a 1993 Dodge Shadow and refused to stop when Korson tried to pull him over, so the trooper pursued him with blue lights flashing and siren screaming. Korson told the court how Jones exited at Route 50 east and "went through stopped traffic at Waples Mill [Road] and through a red light without hitting his brakes."

He described how Jones blew through other intersections and red lights, as well — getting onto Route 29 north, passing stopped traffic on the shoulder of the road and going through another red light while "doing speeds in excess of 90 mph."

Korson said Jones continued speeding through red lights, struck a minivan in the City of Fairfax, left the scene of the accident and continued violating traffic laws along Arlington Boulevard and into Falls Church. There, at Allen Street, Jones ran one more light and smashed the Dodge broadside into Yang's 2000 Lexus. Yang was later pronounced dead at Inova Fairfax Hospital.

Korson said he found Jones behind the wheel of the Dodge, trying to flee the vehicle, and that he smelled of alcohol and had bloodshot eyes. His blood-alcohol content turned out to be .16 — twice the legal limit. Police charged Jones with aggravated involuntary manslaughter, felony hit and run, speeding to elude and DUI.

DURING HIS TRIAL, Jones claimed he'd been in the back seat and wasn't the one who'd been driving. But after the jury convicted him on all counts, he confessed at his sentencing and admitted that he'd lied.

He said he didn't want the police to catch him because he knew they had outstanding warrants for his arrest — for domestic assault and unlawful entry — both of which they served him with after the crash. But because he chose to flee, a man died.

Before sentencing Jones, Judge MacKay told him that his actions had resulted in "the death of a completely innocent person. You're going to have to take responsibility for that, and I'm going to put you in the penitentiary until you're not a danger to society anymore."

She then sentenced him to 20 years in prison for the manslaughter charge and five years for speeding to elude and ran these sentences consecutively. She also gave Jones 10 years for the hit-and-run and a year for the DUI, running them concurrently with the other sentences.

MacKay later appointed a different defense attorney, John Carroll, to represent Jones in any further legal matters concerning his case. And when Carroll filed a motion to reconsider on Jones' behalf, MacKay suspended her criminal order regarding him.

In court Friday, Carroll based his motion on two things that had occurred during Jones' trial. The first was that the expert witness who testified about the effects of alcohol in general didn't mention how it would specifically affect people of various races, heights and weights.

"She's a blood technician and hadn't worked with humans," said Carroll. "She'd only studied about alcohol's effects on humans, but had no firsthand knowledge about them, so she testified beyond her expertise."

Secondly, he said, "There's a possibility that the jury might have been inflamed by [Jones' passenger] Luis Martinez' testimony about the car having possibly been hijacked [by Jones]. That's what he told police immediately after the accident. This charge was [dropped] because the [alleged] victim had left the country. If he'd gotten a year on all these charges, we could infer that the jury wasn't inflamed."

Carroll assured the judge that Jones' case won't be tried again and witnesses won't be called. However, he said, "I ask Your Honor to consider these issues so we could resolve them in the best possible way for Mr. Jones, given what he's alleged to have done."

But Eberle countered that "all these objections were raised at the trial and the court ruled on them." She said the witness testifying about alcohol's effects "is a toxicologist and the court deemed her an expert. Honestly, the jury instruction was that, if [Jones' blood-alcohol content] was .08 or above, the defendant was considered intoxicated."

Furthermore, she said, regarding a possible carjacking, "Once the defendant got on the stand and testified, he opened the door to that line of questioning. The owner of the car testified that he did not know the defendant."

EBERLE SAID that, during her closing argument, she "did not allude to the fact that [Jones] was a carjacker." As for the jury recommending he receive the maximum sentence because of it, she said, "That's pure speculation."

"I argued on the facts of the case," she told MacKay. "And the fact that he got on the stand and lied also entered into [the jury's sentencing recommendation].

"The facts of the case speak for themselves — the defendant's speed, the length of the pursuit and the fact that he killed a father of two. And that's why they gave him the maximum sentence. So we ask you to deny the motion to reconsider."

The judge then did just that, telling Carroll, "I'll issue a new, final order next week, and you'll have 30 days to appeal." Carroll noted his exceptions to MacKay's ruling on the two issues he raised. And afterward, outside the courtroom, he said he will appeal Jones' case to the State Court of Appeals.