ROCKVILLE – “If wasn’t for this bullshit, I would be at the beach having a lit-ass time,” said former Wootton High School quarterback Sam Ellis to his sister from jail while he was awaiting sentencing, according to State Prosecutor Mark Anderson.
Ellis was sentenced to four years in prison Thursday, June 9 after killing two former classmates in a drunken-driving crash last June.
Ellis, 19, pleaded guilty to two counts of manslaughter for the deaths of Calvin Li, 18, and Alexander Murk, 18, on April 8. He will be eligible for parole after serving one year of his sentence, according to Anderson. Additionally, Ellis will have to serve five years of probation and 500 hours of community service after he finishes serving his prison sentence.
Before he handed down his sentence, Montgomery County Court Judge Robert Greenberg said Ellis needed to take responsibility for his actions.
“Mr. Ellis took the lives of two friends, and there needs to be accountability for it,” Greenberg said.
The crash took place in the late evening on June 25, 2015 after an underage drinking party in North Potomac. According to Anderson, after the party, Ellis had a designated driver take him to his car parked three blocks away from the house in order to avoid having anyone trying to stop him from drinking and driving.
Ellis then drove Li and Murk, seated in the backseat of his Acura TSX and Cameron Siasi, seated in the passenger’s seat. Ellis then drove excessively fast through residential neighborhoods and veered off Dufief Mill Road, striking a drainage pipe embankment and then became airborne before bouncing off one tree and crashing into another. According to Corporal David Cohen of the Montgomery County Police Collision Reconstruction team, the vehicle travelled 104 feet in the air before landing in the driveway of a home located on 13820 Dufief Mill Road.
“The car was basically a missile. This conduct is outrageous,” Anderson said.
Li and Murk died on the scene, while Ellis and Siasi were taken to Suburban Hospital.
Greenberg’s four-year sentence was significantly less than the 12-year sentence the state requested. Anderson tried to paint Ellis as cocky and unremorseful by pointing to a prior charge of intent to distribute a controlled dangerous substance (marijuana), an arrest in South Carolina for drunkenness and using a fake ID and another charge of violent conduct in public in Ocean City.
“He was on a path of destruction as he was running into the wall of substance abuse,” Anderson said.
Anderson gave an animated plea, pounding the table in front of him three times, as he asked Greenberg to harshly punish Ellis. Anderson described the night of the crash, showing pictures of debris from Ellis’ Acura TSX scattered across the front yard where it crashed.
Before he was sentenced, Ellis apologized for his remarks from the recorded phone call to his sister, saying the “bullshit” was a reference to his actions, not to the charges, and the comment was an attempt to cheer his sister up while he was in jail.
Ellis said he took responsibility for his actions and that he was not a victim.
“I just really want to express how sorry I am,” Ellis said.
Ellis’ attorney Michael McAuliffe said his client has taken responsibility and has shown that by having the judge revoke his bond on Ellis’ request and start serving his time before the sentencing hearing.
“He’s going there to show that he’s taking responsibility,” McAuliffe said.
Ellis told Greenberg he changed and he wanted to be given a chance to show he is a “leader” by educating about the dangers of drinking and driving after he serves his sentence.
“The date of my action (accident) has also been the date of my sobriety,” Ellis said.