Teen says attempted-murder charge in beating of teacher not warranted

Youth admits role in attack

lawyer calls it `second-degree assault'

January 04, 2001|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

The fourth suspect to appear in Baltimore County Circuit Court in the near-fatal beating of a Hereford Middle School teacher in June admitted yesterday that he took part in the attack.

But Daniel J. Leksen argued during a daylong trial that while he is guilty of assault, the punches he threw that night were insufficient evidence to convict him of attempted murder.

"This was a confrontation that just got out of hand, and it happened very quickly," said Patrick Maher, Leksen's lawyer. "We have a very bad second-degree assault."

Leksen, 18, of Cockeysville is charged with attempted murder and assault in the beating June 18 of Jason Barnett, an agricultural sciences teacher.

Assistant State's Attorney James O. Gentry argued that Leksen was a key player in the attack, punching Barnett and preventing Barnett's friend, Jeffrey Gilbert, from coming to his rescue by repeatedly punching him."[Barnett] was down on the ground, unconscious, bleeding and choking on his own blood, and this defendant knew it," Gentry said.

Judge Robert N. Dugan is expected to rule on the case after hearing closing arguments this morning.

Barnett was walking with Gilbert and Tami Torrey to a Cockeysville apartment about 1:30 a.m. when four males attacked them, knocked Barnett to the ground and beat him so severely that he spent 11 days at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.

Barnett testified that he remembers walking with his friends when he was approached by "four individuals" and hit in the right eye.

His next memory is waking up in a hospital bed, he said.

"Basically, I remember four individuals at my right, and then I don't remember anything," Barnett said, as he rubbed tears from his eyes.

Barnett testified that he spent two months recuperating at his parents' home in Lancaster, Pa.

He said that he had four surgical procedures to reconstruct a shattered jaw and other facial bones and lost 25 pounds because his jaw was wired shut for several weeks, and he had to receive nourishment through a syringe.

County police have said the attack was unprovoked, and Leksen offered no motive in his testimony.

Leksen, a junior at Dulaney High School, testified that he had drunk three 40-ounce malt liquors that night, had been smoking marijuana and was awaiting the arrival of more marijuana when the attack occurred.

He blamed two co-defendants for initiating the attack, but said that he was laughing during it.

"I thought it was funny at the time," he testified. "I thought it was a fight. I don't know what I was thinking."

Franklin J. Medina, 16, of Cockeysville considered by police to be "the most culpable" of the four, was sentenced in juvenile court in the fall to an indefinite term at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Cub Hill. He was initially charged as an adult.

Roy G. Higgs, 18, of Owings Mills pleaded guilty to first-degree assault and was sentenced to 15 years.

Jimmy Zentz, 20, of Manchester pleaded guilty to first-degree assault. Zentz is to be sentenced Feb. 9.

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