His former boss testified in support of him yesterday. His jailhouse psychologist and social worker, too.
Backed by what his public defender called "an unusual show of support," an Annapolis man pleaded guilty and was sentenced to six years in prison yesterday for crashing a sports car while drunk and then carjacking a pickup truck in Edgewater, wielding a screwdriver as a weapon.
Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Paul A. Hackner acknowledged witnesses' accounts that Ronald L. Harden Jr., 37, had struggled with depression and substance abuse and deserved a chance for rehabilitation. But the judge meted out a sentence in the middle range of the guidelines.
"This is one of those very sad cases when I don't think Mr. Harden is a bad person. ... I am really very sympathetic to the issues of mental health. ... But we get to a point where we say, 'What is fair to the community?'" Hackner said.
According to Deputy State's Attorney William D. Roessler, Harden was drunk and speeding in a black Mustang on Muddy Creek Road about 4 p.m. Feb. 25 when he struck a 2004 Chevy Blazer at the intersection with Central Avenue and left the scene.
Minutes later, he lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a wooded area.
Another driver stopped to help Harden, who demanded that the man give him a ride in his Ford F-150 pickup truck. Harden threatened the man with a screwdriver.
Anne Arundel County police pursued the truck, and when the driver pulled over, Harden fled but was quickly arrested.
Harden, whose criminal record includes convictions for burglary and cocaine possession, apologized to the court. The victims, who were not injured in the incident, did not attend yesterday's sentencing.
"To the victims in this whole sad incident, I hope they can forgive me," he said. "I can't say how sorry I am."
Harden's public defender, Elizabeth W. Palan, said Harden had been trying to turn his life around by working two jobs.
A psychologist who has treated Harden at the Jennifer Road Detention Center said Harden does not have a "violent temperament."
"He's emerged as one of the pillars of the community where other inmates look up to him for advice," said Constantine J. Sakles.