Man Whose Arrest Sparked Internal Police Review Gets 18 Months For Assault

April 28, 2009|By Don Markus | Don Markus,don.markus@baltsun.com

A man who led officers on a chase in Howard County last fall that sparked an investigation into accusations of police brutality pleaded guilty Monday to assault charges.

Stephen Zombro, 41, pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree assault and two counts of malicious destruction of property for the Nov. 20 chase that began when officers attempted to serve a warrant on a theft charge. Zombro also must pay $2,500 in restitution for damage to police cruisers he hit with his pickup truck during the chase.

The Jessup man was indicted on more than a dozen counts, most of which were dropped as part of the plea agreement with prosecutors. Facing a possible 26 years for the charges to which he pleaded guilty, Zombro was sentenced by Circuit Judge Richard S. Bernhardt to 18 months in the county detention center.

The chase and arrest were videotaped by several TV news stations. One version showed Zombro face-down on the road surrounded by several officers and what appears to be an officer repeatedly punching him in the back. Police Chief William McMahon later said the footage "concerned" him, and he launched an internal investigation.

On Monday, police spokeswoman Sherry Llewellyn refused to comment on whether the investigation had been completed or whether any officers faced disciplinary action.

Zombro's attorney, Sheldon Levitt, and deputy state's attorney Todd Taylor said Monday that the actions of officers during the arrest did not factor into the plea agreement.

Taylor said that he discussed the proposed plea with the officers whose cruisers were struck and that they were satisfied. The prosecutor said Zombro has undergone treatment for crack cocaine addiction during the 159 days he has been incarcerated. The judge said the fact that Zombro was driving under the speed limit throughout the chase indicated he was not trying to elude police.

"I wasn't trying to hurt anybody by any means," Zombro said during Monday's hearing.

The incident began in the early afternoon at Dorsey Run and Patuxent Range roads in Jessup when officers tried to stop Zombro on a theft warrant, police said. Zombro fled onto Route 32 west. Police used stop-sticks near U.S. 29 and flattened three tires on his pickup truck, which came to a stop near the exit to Shaker Drive. After his arrest, Zombro was taken to Howard County General Hospital, where a preliminary evaluation showed no serious injuries, police said.

Levitt said Zombro understands the effect his behavior has had on his family, which includes a 12-year-old daughter.

"I think he has reached the bottom," Levitt said.

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