Driver gets 15 years for assault after 100 mph chase Alcoholic fails in bid for treatment instead

May 20, 1992|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff Writer

A Baltimore Circuit Court judge sentenced an alcoholic yesterday to a 15-year prison term in connection with a 100 mph chase and the man's use of his car to crush a Toll Facilities policeman against a telephone pole.

The defendant, Thomas Barrett, has sought treatment for alcoholism numerous times, but he was legally drunk at the time of the incident.

During the Aug. 11 chase, which began on Interstate 95 near the Fort McHenry Tunnel, Barrett tried to run over three pedestrians and rammed vehicles driven by the officer and another motorist, according to court records.

The officer suffered numerous injuries, including a bent spine that may force him to abandon his police career, a prosecutor said.

Judge Elsbeth Bothe gave Barrett with the maximum sentence for the offenses. "Not only is he the most serious alcoholic I have ever heard about, but he couples his alcohol with violence," the judge said. "I can't expose the community to him."

Barrett, 45, who along with family members pleaded with the judge to be placed in a treatment program rather than sent to jail on the assault charge, has been arrested five times for drinking and driving offenses, court records show.

During the chase, Barrett led Toll Facilities Police Officer Mark Reh Henry on a 100 mph chase on Interstate 95 to Moravia Park Drive in Northeast Baltimore.

The chase began when toll police attempted to arrest Barrett for drunken driving in the Fort McHenry Tunnel.

The officer finally forced Barrett's car off the road in the 6100 block of Frankford Ave. and approached it, only to be struck when Barrett swung open his driver's side door.

According to court records, Barrett then drove forward and backward three times, pinning the officer between the telephone pole and the door.

Before other officers arrived to help, Officer Henry, 30, suffered numerous injuries including the spine injury that that may force him to quit his police career, said Assistant State's Attorney Sarah Reeder.

"My whole life is ruined, I live in constant pain," said Officer Henry, who attended yesterday's court hearing.

Barrett registered a .23 blood alcohol level. A finding of .10 is considered legally intoxicated in Maryland.

In giving Barrett the maximum sentence, Judge Bothe pointed to his severe drinking and driving record and his inability to straighten his life out.

Barrett formerly lived in the 500 block of E. Patapsco Ave. in Baltimore.

Barrett's four other alcohol-related arrests surrounded numerous failed attempts in alcohol and drug treatment centers.

"I'm an alcoholic," the defendant told Judge Bothe. "Most of the time, I can't control it."

According to the court records, Barrett checked himself in to Springfield Hospital for treatment on eight different occasions.

He also was in treatment at eight other area facilities, including Taylor Manor, Spring Grove, Oakview, Changing Point, and New Beginnings, the court papers said.

"I think he tried it all. Is there any program for a man like him?" Judge Bothe asked. "The only thing left is a trip to the waters of Lourdes," the judge added, referring to the Roman Catholic shrine in France fabled for miraculous cures.

Just the day before the assault, Barrett's wife, Betty, attempted to check him into a treatment program at Franklin Square Hospital Center.

But when she left him alone for a moment, her husband took her car, went to a motel and began a drinking binge, according to court records.

Barrett's attorney, Howard Margules, read statements from both Mrs. Barrett and her daughter, who told of how much they loved Barrett despite his horrible drinking problems.

"There is another side to him. He's not a model citizen but he's not an evil person," wrote his 20-year-old daughter, Robin Barrett.

"He has been a good father, and he is a wonderful person when he is sober. . . . He had a horrible childhood with an alcoholic father and a mother who didn't love him."

In court records, Barrett himself expressed hatred for himself upon his arrest.

The court papers said he declared when the officers arrested him: "You all should have shot me. I know I screwed up. My life is screwed up."

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