Ex-bishop's drunken-driving trial postponed until September

By BRIAN WITTE
Associated Press

BALTIMORE (AP) — A judge on Thursday postponed the trial of a former Episcopal bishop charged in the drunken-driving death of a bicyclist to give attorneys more time to work on a plea deal.

Heather Cook's trial was scheduled to start Thursday, but Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Wanda Heard granted her attorney's request for a postponement after Cook waived her right to a speedy trial. The trial is now set for Sept. 9.

David Irwin, Cook's lawyer, told reporters he was in the "earliest of plea considerations" and has spoken "very, very briefly" with prosecutors.

"We would hope that we could resolve the case without trial for everybody's sake, most importantly the Palermo family's sake," Irwin said, referring to the family of victim Tom Palermo. "To go through the trauma of a trial, my client certainly doesn't want to have to put them through that."

Alisa Rock, the sister-in-law of the victim, said that she had been told by prosecutors to expect a postponement but that she was still disappointed by the delay.

"We're just looking forward to having Bishop Cook held accountable for her actions and to find justice for Tom, Rachel, Sadie and Sam," Rock said, referring to the victim, his wife and the couple's two young children, who are 6 and 4 years old, respectively.

Rochelle Ritchie, a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office, declined to comment. She said the postponement was at the request of defense and wouldn't comment further on the delay.

Cook pleaded not guilty and is free on $2.5 million bail. She resigned from her post with the Episcopal Church, and church officials revoked her clergy credentials.

Cook faces charges of vehicular manslaughter, drunken driving and distracted driving stemming from a Dec. 27 crash. Prosecutors say Cook was drunk and texting when she fatally struck Palermo, 41, on his bicycle.

Cook had been the second-highest ranking Episcopal leader in Maryland.

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This story has been corrected to show that Alisa Rock is the sister-in-law of Tom Palermo, not Rachel.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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