An 18-year-old Cockeysville man was sentenced to an 18-year prison term yesterday for his role in a beating that nearly killed a Hereford schoolteacher.
Daniel Leksen fought back tears as he apologized to the teacher, Jason Barnett, whose face was shattered in the assault June 18. "I'm sorry, sorry, sorry," Leksen said in a quiet voice laced with emotion.
Leksen told Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert N. Dugan that two co-defendants began the assault and that he threw only one punch at Barnett and six others at a friend of Barnett's who was not seriously injured.
"They initiated it. I was drunk, and in my stupidity, I followed them," said Leksen, who was a junior at Dulaney High School when he was arrested in June.
Leksen's mother, Marjorie Webb, told the judge that her son began using drugs and alcohol in 1993, when her third husband left her to raise four sons alone. "I hope that the court sees a future in Daniel and will not simply discard him," she said.
But Dugan said the brutality of the attack required a stiff sentence. "In essence, it was mob violence," he said.
He sentenced Leksen to 18 years on a charge of first-degree assault for the attack on Barnett, and a concurrent 15-year term for the second-degree assault on Barnett's friend, Jeffrey David Gilbert.
Assistant State's Attorney James O. Gentry had asked for a 25-year sentence.
State sentencing guidelines, which take into account the defendant's criminal record and the nature of the victim's injuries, called for sentence of 10 to 18 years, Gentry said.
Barnett, an agricultural science teacher at Hereford Middle School, was walking with Gilbert and Gilbert's girlfriend, Tami Torrey, toward Barnett's apartment when they were attacked by four men. Barnett, 25, was knocked to the ground and beaten so severely that he spent 11 days at Maryland Shock Trauma Center.
He had four surgical procedures to reconstruct his shattered face. He lost 25 pounds because his jaw was wired shut for several weeks and he had to take nourishment through a syringe.
Gentry said Leksen was part of a group that pounced on Barnett "like a pack of wolves." He said Leksen kept Gilbert from rescuing Barnett, punching him six times after he was thrown to the ground.
But Leksen's lawyer, Patrick Maher, said the assault was not planned. He said the only other criminal charge filed against his client had been a juvenile citation issued when his mother caught him with marijuana and called police.
Leksen is the last of four defendants to be sentenced in the attack. Franklin J. Medina, 16, of Cockeysville was sentenced Oct. 20 in juvenile court to an indefinite term at the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School. Roy G. Higgs, 18, of Owings Mills was sentenced in December to 15 years in prison. Jimmy Zentz, 20, of Manchester was sentenced in February to 18 years.