Prince George’s County Council member Karen Toles was found guilty by a judge Wednesday of reckless driving and ordered to pay a $402 fine in relation to a highly publicized incident in February during which police said she drove in excess of 100 miles per hour on the Capital Beltway.
Judge Megan Johnson ordered probation before judgment for Ms. Toles, meaning that she would accrue no further points on her driving record for the offense if she commits no additional offenses. Ms. Toles faced losing her driver’s license.
During the hearing in Prince George’s County District Court in Upper Marlboro on Wednesday, officers who stopped Ms. Toles also testified that after she was pulled over she admitted to checking her email, talking on the phone and applying make-up while her she maneuvered her county-owned vehicle through traffic.
Video from a police officer’s in-car camera showed the officer following Ms. Toles‘ Ford Edge off the Capital Beltway and onto Branch Avenue for several minutes before she pulled over. When officers approached her car with guns drawn, she exclaimed “Oh my God! What’s going on? I’m a councilwoman,” Cpl. Steven Geer testified in court.
Later during her encounter with police, Cpl. Geer testified that she also said, “This is why people don’t like PG — because you point guns at people.”
During the roughly two-hour hearing, Ms. Toles testified that she would not have made the statements to police if she knew they would later be used against her in court.
Initially after the incident, Ms. Toles was only ticketed for an unsafe lane change and paid a $90 fine for that offense. Facing scrutiny over whether Ms. Toles received preferential treatment when she was pulled over, top brass and legal experts from the police department reviewed the incident and charged her with the more serious offense of reckless driving.
Rosalyn Pugh, Ms. Toles‘ attorney, argued that the additional reckless driving charge was “double jeopardy,” or an illegal second prosecution for the same offense, and tried to have the charge dismissed. Judge Johnson refused to throw out the case on those grounds.
“We have a situation where because of pressure from the press … they have now decided they are going to charge my client with something they otherwise wouldn’t have charged her with,” Ms. Pugh said.
Both Ms. Pugh and Ms. Toles declined to comment after the hearing.
County Police Chief Mark A. Magaw after the hearing denied the allegations that Ms. Toles was initially charged with a lesser offense because she was a County Council member. He added that the additional reckless driving charge was tacked on after officers “reviewed all the evidence in the case.”