A Harwood man who purposely crashed his pickup truck into Anne Arundel County police cars and injured three officers was sentenced this week to serve 12 years in prison by a judge who called the deaf and autistic man a poster child for "unmet needs."
Anne Arundel County prosecutor Brian Marsh said that William Richard Leapley Jr., 27, knew what he was doing when he rammed the three cruisers on Jan. 19, but Leapley's lawyer said his client has limited mental abilities, language skills and understanding of the world around him.
Cpl. Daniel Sereboff described in court the terror of having his car shoved across Route 2 near Harwood, into a passer-by's vehicle.
"That's something I play back over and over in my head," he said.
His seat belt jammed in the crash, he said. He also testified that his teenage daughter saw his crunched cruiser on the way to school and was upset.
"This is one of, if not the most terrifying incidents I've been through in my life," he said.
Both Sereboff and Cpl. Cory Eslick said they live with pain from injuries caused be Leapley.
In court, Leapley turned toward the officers and signed. "I'm very, very, very sorry," a sign language interpreter said for him.
Defense lawyer Peter S. O'Neill told Judge Paul A. Hackner that his client grew up in a chaotic, dysfunctional home. O'Neill said Leapley lived with his mentally ill mother and he believed his brother was stealing from him. He saw few people outside his family, the attorney said. Leapley learned what he saw, which included family violence and "a lot of social impropriety," O'Neill said.
Staff reports from Springfield Hospital Center said Leapley, who dropped out of school at 16, has "primitive" language skills. But a psychiatrist said Leapley also suffers from developmental disabilities, autism, depression, anxiety, hallucinations and other problems. Leapley tried to kill himself when hospitalized, not long after he was jailed, O'Neill said.
O'Neill suggested that Hackner place Leapley on house arrest with court-ordered treatment. An aunt said Leapley could live with her and her husband, and she would see that he receive the treatment laid out by psychiatrists at Springfield, who treated him for five months before he pleaded guilty to assault.
Hackner said treatment in the community was out of the question because the public needed to be protected "from the next outburst." He recommended that prison officials evaluate Leapley for treatment at the prison system's Patuxent Institution.
Leapley's family called the police Jan. 18 after a dispute erupted between him and his brother. But when officers arrived, Leapley was nowhere to be found, Marsh said. When police returned the next day, he got into his pickup truck and rammed one officer's car. He pushed the second cruiser, with Eslick inside, into the officer standing in front of it, and then drove onto Route 2, where he struck Sereboff's vehicle twice, boosting it into traffic and into a guardrail. Police later arrested him at a house in Harwood.
"He expressed to me that he had no intention of harming the officers, that he thought he was going to go to jail or they were going to shoot him," O'Neill said
Hackner sentenced Leapley to 25 years in prison for three counts of assault, but suspended all but 12 years. Leapley will must serve five years of probation when released.
After the sentencing, Sereboff said he was pleased with Leapley's punishment. "My body will never the same," he said.
Leapley's family declined to comment.