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Georgia: Diplomat Pleads Guilty In Fatal Crash

By Julie Moffett and K.P. Foley

Washington, 9 October 1997 (RFE/RL) - Georgian envoy Gueorgui Makhardze told a judge in Washington yesterday that he is guilty of causing a traffic accident that killed a 16-year-old girl and injured four other people last January.

Makharadze, who was the second secretary at the Washington embassy, told U.S. District Court Judge Harold Cushenberry that he was taking full responsibility for the crash. The judge ordered him held without bail until sentencing on December 19.

The judge said Makharadze had demonstrated "a callous disregard for others."

The United States Attorney's Office for Washington, which handled the prosecution, told RFE/RL that the envoy's plea of guilty came as no surprise. A spokesman said the diplomat's Washington lawyers had informed prosecutors of their decision to plead guilty last week.

The Washington police department said that Makharadze was drunk when his car plowed into a line of cars waiting at a stoplight at a busy downtown street in the early hours of January 3. Joviane Waltrick of Kensington, Maryland was killed in the five-car crash.

The judge cited two earlier incidents involving Makharadze, who had been charged in April 1996 with speeding in suburban Virginia and detained four months later by Washington police but was released after he claimed diplomatic immunity.

After the January accident, Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze personally intervened in the case and waived Makharadze's diplomatic immunity, which protected him from prosecution.

Makharadze could be sentenced to 70 years in prison.