Cars, Crime, Law Professors, Law Schools, Traffic Accidents

Possible Criminal Charges for a Criminal Law Professor

The vehicle of the alleged victim.

Just because you teach the law doesn’t mean that you’re above it. We’ve written in the past about prominent law professors accused of domestic violence and soliciting a prostitute, for example.

Today we bring you news of another law professor who could be in trouble with the law. He’s accused of reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident. The allegations, if true, are surprising.

The professor in question teaches at a top law school. Who is he?

Here’s the report, from NBC 4 in Washington, D.C.:

A prominent Georgetown University law professor could be facing legal trouble of his own after being accused of leaving the scene of an accident last month in northwest D.C.

About 7:45 a.m. Jan. 24, a car slammed into the back of a BMW stopped at a traffic light at 27th Street and Military Road. A warrant for John Copacino was approved on charges of leaving after colliding and possible reckless driving. Copacino is the director of Georgetown’s Criminal Justice Clinic and E. Barrett Prettyman Program.

Yes, Professor Copacino teaches criminal law — and he has even been honored for his excellent teaching, described as “an outstanding role model to his students.”

Well, students might want to refrain from the brazen behavior that Professor Copacino stands accused of:

“He said, ‘I’m not waiting,’” said Vivianne Pommier, who says her car was struck. “And we said, ‘Oh yes you are.’ And he said, ‘No, no, no. I’m not waiting. I’m leaving.’”

He left without exchanging information with Pommier, she said…. “The fact that he knows better and he is representing a law school and he’s teaching people about criminal law, yet does this law not [apply] to him?” Pommier said.

The notion that a law professor wouldn’t stop to exchange information with a fellow motorist after getting into an accident is hard to believe. Perhaps there’s more to this story that will emerge later.

It should be noted, though, that Pommier — who perhaps has a motive for alleging misconduct on Copacino’s part, since she might pursue him in a civil case — isn’t the only driver making claims of reckless driving:

“We followed him for a few blocks … and he’s straddling into the other lanes of traffic and he swerves over,” [witness] Gayle Pegg said. “He ran a stop sign, and then there was a light that we came up to, and he actually stopped in the middle of the intersection.”

Professor John Copacino

Looking on the bright side, things could have been worse. Nobody was killed or seriously injured (although Pommier claims a bad case of whiplash). Pommier’s BMW sustained just $600 in bumper damage.

News4 reached out to Professor Copacino but he did not respond to them. We also tried contacting him last night but have not yet received any response. If and when we do, we’ll let you know.

If you get the chance, surf over to the NBC website and watch the video report. The portly correspondent, clad in a blue sweater and bright orange scarf, is hilariously melodramatic. Yes, a BMW was hit, but that hardly qualifies as a tragedy (especially since it was just a 3 Series).

UPDATE (11 AM): The reporter in question, Pat Collins, is something of a local institution. Click here for video of Brian Williams poking gentle fun at him.

Georgetown Law Professor May Have Legal Trouble of His Own [NBC4 Washington]
Professor Copacino Receives Lever Award [Georgetown University Law Center]
John M. Copacino [Georgetown University Law Center]

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