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Ex-FBI Agent Acquitted of Vehicular Homicide

He is convicted of misdemeanor charges in the interstate collision that killed two brothers.

November 26, 2002|From Reuters

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A former FBI agent was acquitted by a Florida jury Monday of manslaughter and vehicular homicide in a 1999 highway crash that killed two brothers, but was found guilty of lesser misdemeanor charges.

A state court jury in Fort Lauderdale found David Farrall, 39, not guilty of the more serious charges in the deaths of brothers Maurice Williams, 23, and Craig Chambers, 19. But it found him guilty of driving under the influence and reckless driving.

Farrall would have faced a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted on the manslaughter and homicide charges.

Farrall's Honda collided with the brothers' Kia on Interstate 95 shortly after midnight on Nov. 23, 1999. Williams, a youth minister, was driving Chambers home from church choir practice. Neither had alcohol in his system, trial evidence showed.

Farrall, who was then an FBI agent, was driving home from a tavern where he had been watching a football game with his supervisor and had a blood-alcohol level of 0.14, trial evidence showed. Florida's limit for drivers is 0.08.

The Florida Highway Patrol initially blamed the brothers for the crash, saying they were going the wrong way on the highway. A month later, they said it was Farrall who was going the wrong way.

But Farrall insisted he was not going the wrong way. Prosecutors and legal analysts suggested that the jury might have been uncertain about that issue due to conflicting evidence.

"I still believe the brothers were going the right way," prosecutor Michael Horowitz said after the verdict. "Maybe the jurors had difficulty with that."

The investigation drew widespread scrutiny, with community activists accusing the Highway Patrol of protecting the white FBI agent at the expense of two brothers, who were black.

Highway Patrol investigators said the FBI did not tell them Farrall had been drinking before the crash and that the FBI prevented them from talking to Farrall at the hospital where he was treated for injuries afterward. The FBI has denied the allegations. Farrall had been with the FBI for a little over a year before the crash and was fired after his arrest.

Accident reconstruction experts testifying for the prosecution said skid marks, crash debris and the landing position of the cars showed Farrall was driving south in the northbound lanes on Interstate 95.

Defense attorney Bruce Udolf called the testimony "junk science" aimed at manipulating the jury. He said prosecutors and investigators were looking for a scapegoat to appease critics and the victims' relatives, who have filed a $50-million lawsuit against the FBI, the Highway Patrol, Farrall's FBI supervisor and the bar that served him.

Farrall testified that he was not impaired by alcohol and that he was going the right way before the crash.

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