Marine is charged in traffic accident that killed Romanian rock star
April 21, 2005
A U.S. Marine was charged Monday with negligent homicide and driving while intoxicated in connection with a traffic accident that killed a popular Romanian musician last December, a Marine spokesman said Wednesday.
Staff Sgt. Christopher R. VanGoethem, 32, a former commander of the Marine security detachment at the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest, Romania, also has been accused of reckless driving in the incident, said Maj. Matthew Morgan, a spokesman for the 4th Marine Expeditionary Brigade.
On Monday, VanGoethem was informed Article 32 proceedings had been initiated against him, Morgan said. A date for the Article 32 has not been set, but proceedings will likely begin by mid- to late May.
The charges stem from an accident that killed 50-year-old Teofil Peter, veteran producer and bassist for the rock band Compact, in early December 2004. VanGoethem was allegedly driving an embassy-owned vehicle that collided with a taxi at an intersection in the Romanian capital, killing Peter.
A Marine spokesman said in December that VanGoethem had submitted to a Breathalyzer test at the scene, shortly before he was transported out of the country and sheltered from Romanian prosecution. The move prompted public outcry in Bucharest and a request from the Romanian Foreign Ministry to have VanGoethem returned for questioning.
But within two weeks, VanGoethem had been sent to his battalion headquarters in Quantico, Va., where he was assigned to administrative duties while the Naval Criminal Investigative Service conducted a probe into the incident.
Following that investigation, findings were sent to VanGoethem’s commander, Col. William E. Rizzio, for consideration on whether to charge the Marine, Morgan said.
The formal accusation came just a week after the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest announced it has established a fellowship for Romanian artists in memory of Peter. The case remains a potent topic among Romanian media and the public, and the fellowship provided a way to extend an olive branch to local citizens, said Paul Oglesby, the embassy’s press attaché.
“This was something we thought we could do to show our concern over the fact that Mr. Teo Peter died in an accident that had anything to do with the embassy,” Oglesby said Tuesday.