Driver pleads in double-fatal Spring Garden police chase
A York City man who killed two friends and badly injured a third when he crashed into a garage during a high-speed police chase in 2015 faces a county prison sentence of less than two years — rather than a possible sentence of decades in state prison — thanks to the combined efforts of his defense attorney, probation officer and prosecutor.
Shazmir Martino hadn't accepted the plea offer extended by the York County District Attorney's Office, senior deputy prosecutor Sarah Buhite told the presiding judge during Martino's hearing the morning of Friday, Oct. 5.
Buhite said it wasn't in Martino's "best interests" not to take the offer, which the family of fatal-crash victims Elijah and Brandon Moultrey supported.
The defendant was childhood friends with the Moultrey cousins, she later told The York Dispatch.
Martino, 22, of West Cottage Place, was in court on Friday morning for violating his supervised bail conditions. Those were discussed but weren't the focus of the hearing.
Martino being on supervised bail is why York County Probation Officer Amy Doll was assigned to his case in the first place — to supervise him and ensure he followed bail conditions.
Buhite said she offered Martino an agreement in which two counts of third-degree murder and one count of aggravated assault against him would be dropped. Those charges are felonies, and third-degree murder carries a maximum sentence of 20 to 40 years in prison.
In exchange, the agreement called for him to plead guilty to two counts of homicide by vehicle, one count of aggravated assault by vehicle, fleeing or attempting to elude police and three counts of causing a crash while driving without a license.
Open plea: The agreement called for an open plea, meaning it would be up to presiding Common Pleas Judge Michael E. Bortner to determine Martino's punishment, according to Buhite.
The proposed agreement "is the difference between state (prison) time and county time," the prosecutor said, and Martino had just a few more hours to accept it because Friday was the plea deadline.
"I want the defendant to be fully aware of what the offer is," Buhite told the judge.
"It sounds like a fair offer to me," Bortner said.
Defense attorney Ashley Martin told the judge that she had spoken to Martino and his mother "about the risks and rewards" of taking the case to trial.
At the request of Buhite and Martin, Bortner gave Martino a few more hours to consider the deal. He directed Martino to return to court at 1:30 p.m. Friday.
'Above and beyond': At Friday morning's hearing, Martin told the judge that Doll had gone "above and beyond" the duties required of her to supervise Martino's bail.
She called Doll one of the best probation officers — "if not the best I've ever seen."
Doll also addressed the judge Friday morning, saying Martino had violated his bail by drinking alcohol while on supervised probation and by failing to appear for urine testing on several occasions.
However, she urged the judge not to revoke Martino's bail.
"I've been working with him over the last year to get him into counseling," Doll explained.
When she convinced Martino to meet with her over the failed drug tests, he believed he would be arrested for his violations, she said, but met with her anyway.
That's when he admitted he's been "struggling" with emotions brought on by the double-fatal crash, according to Doll.
She said that's when he finally agreed to go to counseling, and an appointment was set up for him with a counselor for later this week.
Martino has held down a job and "finally" just obtained medical insurance, she said.
No-contest plea: When Martino returned to Bortner's courtroom Friday afternoon, his attorney informed the judge that Martino had decided to accept the deal.
He pleaded no contest instead of guilty because of memory issues, his attorney said.
"He was severely concussed and ... is lucky to be alive," Martin said. "He doesn't remember."
Bortner accepted the plea and set sentencing for 9 a.m. Nov. 29, and he ordered a full pre-sentence investigation, including a sentencing recommendation, to help him determine the proper punishment.
"Mr. Martino, that's a heavy load for you to carry around," the judge said.
The background: State police have said Martino was driving a 2003 Buick LeSabre about 4:30 p.m. Nov. 8, 2015, and was fleeing from police at a high rate of speed when he crashed into a garage, which collapsed onto the car.
Killed were cousins Brandon Lamar Moultrey, 22, and Elijah Juan Moultrey, 19, both of York City.
A third passenger, then-17-year-old Brandon Smallwood, was thrown during the crash and suffered numerous serious injuries, according to state police, who said Martino also was hurt.
Martino was 19 years old at the time.
Prior to the pursuit, the four young men assaulted another young man on the grounds of York Suburban High School, beating him into unconsciousness, court documents allege.
They fled, but Spring Garden Township police officers who had been called to the scene spotted them and gave chase, documents state.
Officers tried to pull over the Buick in the area of Hollywood Drive and Hill Street, but it took off, passing other northbound vehicles as it fled, according to documents.
'Flying through the air': The Buick was still accelerating as it crossed the railroad tracks on Hill Street, then slid through the intersection of Third Avenue and Harrison Street, police said.
Officers reported the Buick "appeared to be flying through the air sideways" as it crashed into the garage, documents state.
Using the Buick's event-data recorder, police determined the Buick had been going 83 mph in a 25 mph zone just five seconds before the crash.
At one second before impact, it had slowed to 56 mph, police said.
That speed was too fast for a curve Martino was trying to negotiate, and the Buick side-slipped, struck a curb with its right tires and flipped, police said.
Victim a fugitive: At the time of the crash, Brandon Moultrey was a wanted fugitive.
He was supposed to report to York County Prison on Oct. 6, 2015, to begin serving a 1½- to three-year state prison sentence for dealing heroin, court records state.
But he failed to show, and three days later a bench warrant was issued for his arrest, according to court records. He also was wanted on a state parole violation, officials said.
Investigators determined Smallwood and Brandon Moultrey were sitting in the back seats of the Buick and that Elijah Moultrey was in the front passenger seat, according to court documents.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.