Amherst attorney Drew V. Tidwell is expected to plead guilty Friday to a felony charge in the Aug. 17 hit-and-run collision that killed 68-year-old bicyclist Donald Fruehauf.
In pleading guilty to leaving the scene of a fatal accident, he is expected to be sentenced to one year in jail, sources close to the case said.
Tidwell also will surrender his license to practice law, according to Michael S. Taheri, his lawyer.
"He absolutely accepts full responsibility for this accident, driving the car, hitting Mr. Fruehauf and leaving the scene," Taheri said today. "He has asked me to tell the media and the Fruehauf family he is deeply sorry."
Why did Tidwell, a prominent 51-year-old banking lawyer, flee after striking Fruehauf on Getzville Road just south of Sheridan Drive?
"Panic and all those human emotions that follow when you make a mistake," Taheri said.
Four years ago, Tidwell was arrested on a drunken-driving charge about 300 feet from where he struck Fruehauf. He was later convicted on a reduced charge of driving while impaired.
"Our investigation does not reveal any other moving violations such as speeding or reckless driving," Taheri said.
Family members said they believe Fruehauf was out checking curbside trash for old television sets and videocassette recorders the night he was killed.
Erie County District Attorney Frank J. Clark confirmed an agreement has been reached to allow Tidwell to plead guilty to the felony charge of leaving the scene of a fatal accident. He was scheduled to enter the plea at 9:30 a.m. Friday in State Supreme Court.
"It's not official until the man actually comes into court and does what he says he will do," Clark said today. "I've seen other agreements like this that have gone awry."
Donald Fruehauf's two younger brothers were taken aback by the announcement but said they were pleased by Tidwell's decision.
"Maybe we can move on with our lives," Robert Fruehauf said. "I suppose he must think the evidence against him is overwhelming and that is what caused him to do this."
Leaving the scene of a fatal accident was the most severe charge that could be lodged against Tidwell, Clark added.
"There were no witnesses," Clark said. "The Amherst Police did a tremendous job putting together a circumstantial case."
Though he is expected to be sentenced to 12 months in jail, he could have faced up to four years in prison, a $5,000 fine and five years' probation. A felony conviction also prohibits an individual from practicing law.
His plans were unknown.
Taheri contacted Clark's office to surrender Tidwell's heavily-damaged 1995 Mercury Mystique four days after the collision. That also was one day after Amherst police announced they had determined the make, model and approximate year of the car involved in the fatal hit and run. Tidwell had parked his car in his garage at his Colony Court North home, about one mile from the collision.