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Driver sobs her sorrow in Dover crosswalk case

Union Leader Correspondent

February 27. 2012 10:47PM

Lori Wilson, right and her boyfriend, Matt Weeden, left, were in Dover District Court on Monday to hear Tiana Conlon, 35, of Somersworth accept guilty verdicts for hitting Wilson's three children with her car in January. Wilson said she is glad the prosecutor imposed maximum penalties. (Gretyl Macalaster Photo)

DOVER - 'I'm sorry, I'm so sorry,' Tiana Conlon, 35, of Somersworth said through sobs to Ken Wilson outside of a district courtroom on Monday.

Moments earlier, a judge had imposed about $1,240 in fines against Conlon and suspended her license for 30 days after she pleaded no contest to charges of negligent driving and failing to yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk.

The pedestrians she failed to yield to were three of Ken Wilson's four children, Alyssa, 16, Zach, 14, and Caleb, 10.

The three were in a crosswalk at Portland and Rogers streets at 6:48 a.m. on Jan. 10 when Conlon struck them with her Honda Element.

Dover Police Prosecutor Brian Estee said Conlon had sent an email from her Blackberry just a moment before, and had just turned her attention to the radio to turn down the volume.

All three children were transported to Wentworth Douglas Hospital and treated for injuries, none of which were considered serious.

Conlon herself made the 911 call after the accident and Estee said she has taken full responsibility for what happened, and accepted the strict sentence without taking it to trial.

Estee said the state sets a standard fine of $59.52 for violation-level offense of failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk, but the maximum fine that can be imposed is a 'default fine' of $1,000, Estee said.

'Obviously, given the gravity of this particular case, I certainly felt it appropriate to recommend more than a $59 fine,' Estee said. 'In most violations, unless it is prohibited by law, the fine can be up to $1,000 plus the penalty assessment.'

Estee said he chose to recommend a $500 fine on the charge instead of the full fine because Conlon took responsibility for her actions.

'She hasn't taken this lightly,' Estee said.

Conlon did receive the maximum penalty of $500 on the negligent driving charge, bringing the total fines to about $1,240 with penalty assessments.

The loss of license falls under a separate motor vehicle statute that allows a district or superior court to seek a maximum 30-day license revocation for sufficient cause.

'So she really got the maximum and then some,' Estee said.

In court, the children's mother, Lori Wilson, read aloud a letter about the pain and suffering the accident has caused her family.

She reminded Conlon that driving is a privilege, not a right.

'Your abuse of that privilege nearly cost my three children their lives,' Lori Wilson said.

Conlon declined to comment after the hearing, but Estee said he thinks she is having a hard time forgiving herself for what happened.

'I think it really impacted her tremendously,' Estee said. 'Nobody wants to strike and injure children in a crosswalk.'

He said the best thing about the case is that the children did not suffer more serious injuries.

'It could have been a lot worse,' Estee said.

Ken Wilson said he thought it was a good outcome.

'I do think it could happen to anybody and I think for a lot of people who drive and text it is a wake-up call,' Ken Wilson said.

He said he is able to forgive Conlon, but Lori Wilson, who is the primary caregiver for the couple's four children now that they are divorced, said it is not as easy for her.

The morning of Jan. 10 her children had been out the door less than 15 minutes when the police showed up. She said all she knew on her way to the hospital was that they were alive, and arrived to see them with neck braces and on backboards, with scrapes, bruises, concussions and small fractures.

She said the family is still recovering, physically, mentally and emotionally from the accident.

'There is not a text out there that is worth three children getting hit,' Matt Weeden, Lori Wilson's boyfriend, said.

He said the couple is also talking to local legislators about strengthening the state's texting and driving laws.

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