A Finksburg man indicted on manslaughter charges last year entered a plea agreement for second-degree assault Monday after prosecutors could not conclusively link the 2013 assault to the victim's death more than one month later.
James Michael Leppo, 26, of the 3300 block of Black Steer Road, was sentenced to 10 years in prison — the maximum for second-degree assault — with all but 18 months suspended, according to Circuit Court Chief Attorney Allan Culver.
Leppo is serving his sentence at the Hagerstown Rescue Mission, a faith-based treatment center, where he is being treated for alcohol abuse, Culver said. He has been at the mission since Oct. 7, 2014.
Leppo was involved in an altercation with the victim, Mark Pawley, on Nov. 2, 2013, in a parking lot behind the unit block of West Main Street in Westminster, according to court records.
The two had been drinking together prior to the fight, Culver said, and Pawley pushed Leppo. Leppo then struck Pawley, knocking him unconscious.
Pawley hit his head on the ground and was taken to the hospital where he later died Dec. 10, 2013, according to Culver.
Pawley suffered from cirrhosis of the liver, Culver said, and the disease's contribution to Pawley's death made it difficult to prove the assault was the cause.
When he is nearing the end of the 13-month program at Hagerstown Rescue Mission, Culver said Leppo is to be evaluated for Carroll County's Drug Treatment Court to determine if he needs further treatment and supervision.
When he is released, Leppo will be placed on five years of supervised probation, according to Culver.