Former bishop pleads guilty in death of cyclist in Maryland

BALTIMORE — Former Episcopal bishop Heather Elizabeth Cook Tuesday pleaded guilty to charges in the December drunken-driving death of a bicyclist in North Baltimore.

Cook appeared in court a day before her trial was scheduled to begin. Her attorney previously had said that they were considering a plea and didn’t want to go through a trial “for everyone’s sake.”

Cook pleaded guilty to automobile manslaughter, driving under the influence of alcohol, leaving the scene of a fatal accident and texting while driving.

The state has recommended a sentence of 20 years with 10 years suspended, and five years probation. Cook will have an opportunity to argue for less time at her sentencing this fall.

In April, Cook, 58, pleaded not guilty to all 13 counts against her, including automobile manslaughter, driving under the influence of alcohol and leaving the scene of an accident, which left bicyclist Thomas Palermo, 41, dead.

Prosecutors alleged that Cook, 58, was driving drunk and texting when she left a traffic lane on Roland Avenue in Roland Park on Dec. 27, entered a bike lane Palermo was traveling in and struck him, causing his death.

Cook’s blood-alcohol level was 0.22 percent after the accident, nearly triple the legal limit in Maryland, the state’s attorney’s office has said. Cook continues to receive treatment for alcohol abuse, which she began after the accident, Irwin said.

She has resigned from her post with the Episcopal Church, and her clergy credentials have been revoked.

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