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Georgian Diplomat Pleads Guilty to Charges of Involuntary Manslaughter and Aggravated Assault

October 8, 1997

Georgian Diplomat Pleads Guilty to Charges of Involuntary Manslaughter and Aggravated Assault in Traffic Death of U.S. TeenBy JANELLE CARTER

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A diplomat from the Republic of Georgia who gave up his diplomatic immunity pleaded guilty today to involuntary manslaughter and other charges in the January drunken-driving death of a Maryland teen-ager.

``I take full responsibility for what happened,″ said Gueorgui Makharadze.

Makharadze was held without bond pending sentencing on Dec. 19 before D.C. Superior Court Judge Harold Cushenberry on the charge of involuntary manslaughter and four counts of aggravated assault.

Makharadze, who was the second-ranking officer in Georgia’s Embassy, demonstrated ``a callous disregard for others,″ said Cushenberry.

Witnesses told police that Makharadze was weaving in and out of traffic at speeds up to 85 mph on Jan. 3 when his car crashed into a line of cars at a stoplight on busy Connecticut Avenue.

Joviane Waltrick, 16, of Kensington, Md., was killed in the five-car crash near the capital’s Embassy Row.

Although he was protected from prosecution because of his diplomatic status, Makharadze’s government waived immunity so he could face the charges.

After the girl’s death, the State Department told foreign officials in the nation’s capital they ``are not above the law″ and risk punishment.

``Surely, the people of this community ... should not have to worry about diplomats driving around drunk and not facing the law,″ a State Department spokesman said last spring.

``Our message to the diplomatic community of Washington, D.C., as well as that of New York City, is: You must abide by American laws. If you drive while intoxicated, you face the possible penalties of our legal system,″ former State Department Nicholas Burns said after the accident.

However, Makharadze’s attorney, Lawrence Barcella, said today, ``George should not become the poster child for all the frustrations that people have about diplomats or drunk driving.″

The judge at Makharadze’s arraignment cited two earlier incidents involving the diplomat, who had been charged in April 1996 with speeding in Virginia and detained four months later by District of Columbia police but was released after he claimed diplomatic immunity.

In court today were the teen-ager’s mother and about a dozen supporters.

All were white shirts emblazoned, ``Joviane _ Justice for the World.″

``My daughter will not come back. But it’s been worth the fight because immunity is not impunity,″ Viviane Wagner, the teen’s mother, said today through an interpreter.

The family had recently moved to the Washington area from Brazil when the girl was killed.

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