Former trooper pleads guilty in crash that killed wife of Braves trainer

A former Georgia State Patrol trooper pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide and reckless driving charges Monday stemming from a 2011 New Year’s Eve crash that killed the wife of Braves head trainer Jeff Porter.

Despite the pleas, Crozier, 42, still faces trial after prosecutors refused to drop a third charge. He maintains he’s innocent of violating his oath of office, which he had hoped the state would dismiss in exchange for the guilty pleas on the other charges.

The prosecution’s insistence on prosecuting the oath violation drew the ire of Fulton County Superior Court Judge Craig Schwall, who warned them their indictment was lacking.

“I think it’s ridiculous to indict for violation of oath when the other two counts are sufficient,” Schwall said.

Crozier was fired by the Georgia State Patrol after an investigation found he did not give the Porters, en route to the Chick-fil-A Bowl at the Georgia Dome, enough time to yield to his patrol car. The 10-year GSP veteran was speeding to assist in the chase of a motorcyclist on nearby I-20 when his cruiser collided with the Porters’ Ford Expedition at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Memorial Drive. Kathy Porter was pronounced dead on the scene.

Prosecutors say their case will draw heavily from Crozier’s spotty track record while with the GSP. He was involved in five crashes in the last three-plus years and was put on notice in February 2011 after a review board concluded he had failed to yield the right of way to a vehicle traveling in front of him. No one was injured.

Crozier received the harshest punishment doled out by the board short of a “letter of reprimand,” which can result in termination, GSP spokesman Capt. Paul Cosper told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in Feb. 2012.

Defense attorney Mike Hawkins said “more than 30 troopers” have driving records as bad as Crozier’s while 10 others were “worse.”

“None of them are charged with a violation of their oath,” he said.

Crozier faces up to 15 years in prison on the two counts he pleaded guilty to on Monday, though Schwall told him he would be sentenced as a first offender.

Jury selection began following a lunch break Monday, though the judge said he remained skeptical of the state’s case.

“This case has been ravaging at my soul,” Schwall said. “It’s the toughest decision I’ve had to make in my whole life.”

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