By Pamela Lehman Of The Morning Call
Copyright 2006 The Morning Call, Inc.
A state trooper from the Bethlehem barracks has been charged with crashing her Jeep into the mailbox and yard of a North Whitehall Township home while off duty and then driving away.
Erin K. Cawley, 29, of Lehigh Township, Northampton County, was charged more than a month after the April 15 crash, and state police will conduct an internal investigation related to the case, said Capt. Scott Snyder, commander of Troop M at Bethlehem.
"Troopers and sworn officers of the law are held to a higher standard and they have to be accountable for their actions," Snyder said. "[Cawley] failed to stop and notify the property owner."
He said Cawley, who has been in the Bethlehem barracks for more than two years, is still working as a trooper.
Cawley, who seven days after the crash admitted to state police that she hit the mailbox, could not be reached for comment. Snyder declined to say where Cawley had been before the crash and he said there was no evidence alcohol was a factor.
She was charged May 22, five weeks after the crash. Snyder declined to give details of the investigation into who crashed into the mailbox and damaged the yard of the Willow Street home.
"It was investigated and documented and the charges were filed," Snyder said.
Cawley is charged with careless driving and an accident involving damage to unattended property. A hearing on the summary charges is scheduled for Aug. 17 before District Judge Patricia Warmkessel. If found guilty, Cawley would be required to pay about $450 in fines.
Cawley told police she was reaching for her cell phone when she hit a mailbox owned by Dwight Adam of 2648 Willow St., according to court documents.
Adam said he was sleeping when he heard a bang outside his home about 2:20 a.m. He said his mailbox has been damaged several times by passing cars and he grabbed his cell phone and flashlight to investigate.
As he walked through the yard to the mailbox, he heard a vehicle spray a shower of rocks as it quickly drove away. He said it was too foggy for him to get a good description of the vehicle, but he saw it was a Jeep.
Adam said he guessed the driver had a flat tire because he heard "foomp, foomp, foomp" as the Jeep drove away.
"I was really pretty startled when I heard the crash," he said. "But I was even more concerned when they left because I feared they were going to hurt someone else."
Adam said the driver caused about $110 in damage to the mailbox, newspaper box and pole and surrounding land. He filed a report with two state troopers who arrived within an hour, but said he didn't think it would be resolved.
"It was suspicious and I didn't think we'd ever find out who did it," he said. "Suddenly, I got this notice in the mail about the other driver's insurance information and I was shocked they found out who did it."
Once the investigation is complete, state police will conduct an internal investigation, Snyder said. He said an internal investigation, which will probably take weeks, often has greater consequences for the trooper involved.
Penalties could range from a written reprimand to suspension without pay or termination, he said.
May 31, 2006
Pa. trooper charged with hitting mailbox, running