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Lawmaker Sentenced for Hit-and-Run

October 28, 2000 GMT

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) _ A state lawmaker who was arrested for a fatal hit-and-run accident after police got an anonymous tip in a Christmas card was sentenced Friday to two to four years in prison.

Former Rep. Thomas W. Druce, 39, resigned from the Legislature last month after pleading guilty to leaving the scene of a fatal accident, insurance fraud and tampering with evidence.

Druce apologized for the accident that killed Kenneth R. Cains, 42. Druce has said all along that he thought he hit a sign.

``I was involved in the accident and Kenneth Cains died as a result of that accident,″ Druce said. ``I am here to take responsibility for that. To the Cains family and my own, I apologize. I recognize I did wrong.″

Judge Joseph Kleinfelter dismissed the four-term Republican’s claim that he didn’t know he hit Cains.

``The impact that your car had with the body of Mr. Cains by all accounts was a considerable impact and you pleaded guilty to a charge of tampering with evidence,″ Kleinfelter told Druce. ``You acknowledged that you knew an investigation was pending. Did you think that that investigation was of who hit a traffic sign?″

Druce was fined $5,500.

Defense lawyer William Lamb angrily left the courtroom without comment except to say he would file an appeal.

Debra Cains, the victim’s sister, said the family was surprised by the length of the sentence but called it appropriate.

``I don’t see any remorse in Thomas Druce,″ Cains said. ``I don’t feel his words were from the heart. It seemed more manipulative than genuine. He still never said that he knew he hit my brother.″

Druce had been an up-and-coming lawmaker who was seen as a future leader of the state’s Republican Party at the time of the 1999 accident.

Witnesses said Cains stumbled into the street and was hit by a dark Jeep Cherokee, which sped away. A coroner’s report said Cains was drunk.

Druce later told friends he had been in a minor accident. He told his insurance company he had hit a barrel on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

He was not questioned about the accident until months later, after police received the anonymous tip. Who sent the card remains a mystery.

Prosecutors dropped a charge of vehicular homicide, which carries up to five years in prison, as the part of the plea bargain.