Man gets 10 years in 1993 slaying in Westminster

May 24, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

Gloria Leonard, whose son Daniel had been sentenced moments earlier to 10 years in prison for his role in the drug-related shooting of a Westminster man last year, walked up to the victim's mother and tried to shake her hand.

"I'm truly sorry," Mrs. Leonard told Patricia A. Winfield, whose 22-year-old son, Gregory Lamont Howard, was killed Jan. 28, 1993, by a single gunshot blast in the chest. The two women were standing outside the courtroom yesterday after Daniel Justin Leonard's sentencing for second-degree murder.

"I know you lost your son. I'm sorry, truly, truly sorry."

Ms. Winfield -- standing next to prosecutors -- told the sobbing woman, "I know." She did not extend a hand.

While she said that she was touched by Mrs. Leonard's apology, "It doesn't ease the pain," she said. "I still feel it every day."

Leonard, a 23-year-old recovering cocaine addict from Reisterstown, pleaded guilty last year and, as part of a deal with prosecutors, was the key witness at the February trial of Timothy Cumberland, one of his two co-defendants.

Before coming into the courtroom of Carroll Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. yesterday, Leonard knew that the most time he could get was 10 years.

But he and the nearly 45 supporters who jammed the courtroom gallery had hoped for much less.

His attorney, David P. Henninger of Towson, asked Judge Burns to sentence Leonard to 18 months in the county jail, saying that he "would be eaten alive" in state prison.

"The suggestion for an 18-month sentence would, if I imposed it, be a mockery of the justice system," Judge Burns said. "That's the kind of sentence I would give to a three-time loser on a DWI charge."

A half-dozen people testified yesterday, trying to persuade Judge Burns to be lenient with Leonard. They told of his transformation from a cocaine addict to a productive employee and caring friend.

"He's a good boy," his mother told the judge. "I'm not going to say he was a saint, but he is a good boy."

It was his drug abuse that brought him to Center Street the night of Jan. 28.

Leonard and Samuel Miller, who is serving 30 years in prison after his second-degree murder plea, were at a Westminster bar when Cumberland asked Miller where they could buy drugs.

Leonard drove Miller and Cumberland -- and his girlfriend -- to South Center Street, a place where he knew he could buy crack, Leonard said during Cumberland's trial.

The trio bought $40 worth of cocaine from an unidentified woman. They asked for more, but the dealer told them to go "around back."

There, police said, they saw a man who sold them another $40 worth of what they thought was crack cocaine. It was soap flakes.

Mr. Howard was shot shortly afterward. He was not involved in either transaction that night.

Cumberland is serving 40 years of a life sentence on his first-degree murder conviction.

Yesterday, as they had during Cumberland's trial, Leonard and his attorney portrayed him as a follower who had trouble picking friends.

"I'm truly and deeply sorry to Mr. Howard's mother," the defendant said, sobbing. "I've never hurt anybody in my life."

Before his hourlong hearing, Leonard was hugging his parents, friends and supporters. He even hugged Assistant State's Attorney Kathi Hill, the prosecutor who later argued to send him to jail for the full 10 years.

Judge Burns, while saying he was impressed with Leonard's remorse and his efforts to get off drugs, said, "This is nothing more than I would expect from anybody out on the streets with a murder conviction.

"As far as I am concerned, he is as responsible for Mr. Howard's death as Timothy Cumberland and Samuel Miller."

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