Defense: Officer Wrong Man on Trial in Fatal Beltway Crash

Police pursuit resulted in double-fatal, seven-car crash

LEONARDTOWN, Md. -- The lawyer for an officer charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter says the man the officer was pursuing is the person who should be on trial.

Prince George's County Police Department Officer Scott Campbell is charged with two counts of vehicular manslaughter in connection with an alleged pursuit that resulted in a seven-car crash that killed Kevin McCarter and Sidney Clanton.

Campbell was pursuing a motorcycle, reaching 124 mph, when he slammed into an SUV on the Beltway in Forestville in May 2007, prosecutors said.

"My defense in this case is they charged the wrong person," said Mike Belski, Campbell's attorney, during Monday's motions hearing.

They should have charged the man on the motorcycle, identified as Harold Vaughan, who broke the law and caused the crash, Belski said. Vaughan had a device on his license plate that made it impossible for Campbell to read it, Belski said. The officer was driving on the shoulder of the Beltway, trying to catch up to the bike to get the license plate information, when he swerved to avoid some tire tread. That caused him to spin out and crash.

Prosecutors put the blame squarely with Campbell, a seven-year veteran of the force. Campbell had a camera mounted in his cruiser but turned it off for six seconds before the fatal crash, then turned it back on after the impact, prosecutors said.

"The officer intentionally cut off this video," Assistant State's Attorney Michael Pearson said.

Campbell had a "consciousness of guilt, an attempt to destroy evidence," Pearson said.

Campbell could face 20 years in prison is convicted. The trial is expected to last all week.

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