State Attorney Files 1st Degree Felony Charge Against Fischer in Hit-and-Run Case
FlaglerLive | February 28, 2012
Update, Feb. 28: The State Attorney’s office on Monday filed a first-degree felony charge against Jamesine Fischer, signaling that it will prosecute the hit-and-run case that led to the death of Francoise Pecqueur, the 76-year-old woman Fischer struck with her PT Cruiser on Columbia Lane in November. The charge, leaving the scene of an accident with a death involved, initially filed by the Florida Highway Patrol, was not official until the State Attorney’s decision to prosecute.
Assistant State Attorney Ben Fox will prosecute the case. Fischer is being defended by Steven Alexander, who told the Palm Coast Observer this week that Fischer intends to plead not guilty. That will lead to a trial. Fischer has already settled a civil, wrongful death lawsuit, through her insurer, awarding the daughter of Francoise Pecqueur–the 76-year-old woman killed on Columbia Lane in November–$1.25 million.
Fischer is married to John Fischer, the Flagler County School Board member, who had several private conversations with Flagler County Sheriff Don Fleming in the 36 hours following the hit-and-run. Those calls have raised questions about Fleming’s involvement. The timing of the case, in the thick of an election season–Fleming is seeking his third term–means that it will remain one of the defining issues of the election season. Fleming’s opponents are already criticizing him for his handling of the case, and one of them–former Sheriff Jim Manfre–jumped into the race because of the Fischer issue. Fleming will likely point to the severity of the charge slapped on Fischer as proof that no deal was cut, though it’s still possible that the trial could be scheduled for after the election, and a plea agreement cut then.
Th previous report on Fischer’s arrest is below.
Jamesine Fischer, School Board Member’s Wife, Is Arrested on Hit-and-Run Charge
Jamesine Fischer, the wife of Flagler County School Board member John Fischer, was arrested and jailed today on a charge of hit-and-run in connection with the death of Francoise Pecqueur, the 76-year-old woman struck by Fischer’s PT Cruiser on Columbia Lane in Palm Coast in November.
Fischer , 55, of 45 Freeland Lane in Palm Coast, was charged with leaving the scene of an accident with a death involved. Bond was set at $30,000. She posted bond and has been released. She was brought to the jail by Steve Alexander, her attorney. She was booked in at 7:18 p.m.
Public attention is generally least attuned to news sites on Friday evenings and Saturdays.
Ficher was at the wheel of her PT Cruiser when, the evening of Nov. 10, she struck Pecqueur as Pecqueur was walking her dog on Columbia Lane, as she often did, near her boyfriend’s house. It was dusk. Pecqueur died two days later.
What took place on Columbia Lane remains murky. A neighborhood resident driving noticed Pecqueur in the swale and called 911, and during the call referred to another woman at the scene, later identified as Fischer. But Fischer herself did not tell paramedics or authorities that she had been involved in the incident.It’s also not clear from the record so far whether she left the scene and returned. Meanwhile, Pecquer was agonizing in the swale, attended by paramedics who reported the case–and responded to it–as a fall, not an auto accident. It was only when Pecqueur was examined by doctors at Halifax Hospital that it was determined she’d been struck by a vehicle, because of the severity of her injuries. About 12 hours later, her husband, John, called Flagler County Sheriff Don Fleming, who told him to call 911 and report the accident, though Fleming said Fischer told him his wife thought she’d hit a dog, not a person.
The Florida Highway Patrol impounded the PT Cruiser the morning after the accident, and began its homicide investigation. Fleming subsequently had five more conversations with John Fischer, which he said had no bearing on the investigation.
Leaving the scene of an accident where there’s no injury is a misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of 60 days in the county jail and (or) a fine of $500. Leaving the scene of an accident where an injury or death is involved is a felony.
“It’s probably her first offense, probably given some sort of probation. Given the circumstances where she left the scene of the accident, that’s pretty aggravating, I think, left the woman to perish, and then lied about it, or covered it up. That’s probably going to result in some concern by the court,” Phil Chanfrau, the Palm Coast attorney, said. “The aggravating circumstances are something the court will have a hard time overlooking.”
Catherine Vyvyan, Pecqueur’s daughter, filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against Fischer on Jan. 27. Ten days later, State Farms, the Fischers’ auto insurer, settled the lawsuit for $1.25 million, an unusually rapid turn-around time.
“I would say due to the egregious nature of Ms. Fischer’s conduct that that prompted State Farm to settle the matter sooner rather than later,” Allan Ziffra, the attorney representing Pecqueur’s daughter, concluded at the time. “Our position is that Fischer’s conduct was beyond the boundaries of human decency and Catherine will pursue justice for the loss of her mother.”
Below is the relevant Florida law in the case.
Florida Statute 316.027 Crash involving death or personal injuries
(1)(a) The driver of any vehicle involved in a crash occurring on public or private property that results in injury of any person must immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash, or as close thereto as possible, and must remain at the scene of the crash until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of s. 316.062. Any person who willfully violates this paragraph commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.
(b) The driver of any vehicle involved in a crash occurring on public or private property that results in the death of any person must immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash, or as close thereto as possible, and must remain at the scene of the crash until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of s. 316.062. A person who is arrested for a violation of this paragraph and who has previously been convicted of a violation of this section, s. 316.061, s. 316.191, or s. 316.193, or a felony violation of s. 322.34, shall be held in custody until brought before the court for admittance to bail in accordance with chapter 903. Any person who willfully violates this paragraph commits a felony of the first degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084. Any person who willfully commits such a violation while driving under the influence as set forth in s. 316.193(1) shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of 2 years.
(c) Notwithstanding s. 775.089(1)(a), if the driver of a vehicle violates paragraph (a) or paragraph (b), the court shall order the driver to make restitution to the victim for any damage or loss unless the court finds clear and compelling reasons not to order the restitution. Restitution may be monetary or nonmonetary restitution. The court shall make the payment of restitution a condition of probation in accordance with s. 948.03. An order requiring the defendant to make restitution to a victim does not remove or diminish the requirement that the court order payment to the Crimes Compensation Trust Fund under chapter 960. Payment of an award by the Crimes Compensation Trust Fund creates an order of restitution to the Crimes Compensation Trust Fund unless specifically waived in accordance with s. 775.089(1)(b).
(2) The department shall revoke the driver’s license of the person so convicted.
(3) Every stop must be made without obstructing traffic more than is necessary, and, if a damaged vehicle is obstructing traffic, the driver of the vehicle must make every reasonable effort to move the vehicle or have it moved so as not to obstruct the regular flow of traffic. Any person who fails to comply with this subsection shall be cited for a nonmoving violation, punishable as provided in chapter 318.
(4) A person whose commission of a noncriminal traffic infraction or any violation of this chapter or s. 1006.66 causes or results in the death of another person may, in addition to any other civil, criminal, or administrative penalty imposed, be required by the court to serve 120 community service hours in a trauma center or hospital that regularly receives victims of vehicle accidents, under the supervision of a registered nurse, an emergency room physician, or an emergency medical technician pursuant to a voluntary community service program operated by the trauma center or hospital.
(5) This section does not apply to crashes occurring during a motorsports event, as defined in s. 549.10(1), or at a closed-course motorsport facility, as defined in s. 549.09(1).
Florida Statute 316.062–Duty to give information and render aid
(1) The driver of any vehicle involved in a crash resulting in injury to or death of any person or damage to any vehicle or other property which is driven or attended by any person shall give his or her name, address, and the registration number of the vehicle he or she is driving, and shall upon request and if available exhibit his or her license or permit to drive, to any person injured in such crash or to the driver or occupant of or person attending any vehicle or other property damaged in the crash and shall give such information and, upon request, exhibit such license or permit to any police officer at the scene of the crash or who is investigating the crash and shall render to any person injured in the crash reasonable assistance, including the carrying, or the making of arrangements for the carrying, of such person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary, or if such carrying is requested by the injured person.
(2) In the event none of the persons specified are in condition to receive the information to which they otherwise would be entitled under subsection (1), and no police officer is present, the driver of any vehicle involved in such crash, after fulfilling all other requirements of s. 316.027 and subsection (1), insofar as possible on his or her part to be performed, shall forthwith report the crash to the nearest office of a duly authorized police authority and submit thereto the information specified in subsection (1).
(3) The statutory duty of a person to make a report or give information to a law enforcement officer making a written report relating to a crash shall not be construed as extending to information which would violate the privilege of such person against self-incrimination.
(4) A violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation as provided in chapter 318.