A 29-year-old Howard County man was convicted yesterday on charges that he assaulted a man, then ordered him to "stop snitching" and commissioned his beating after they both ended up at the same Anne Arundel County jail.
David Thomas Leaken Jr. of the 9000 block of Old Scaggsville Road in Laurel, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and a misdemeanor charge of inducing or inhibiting testimony.
Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge William C. Mulford II sentenced Leaken to a 3 1/2 -year suspended sentence and three years' probation for assaulting Derek Gardner, 22, of the 6600 block of Washington Blvd. in Elkridge, subsequently warning him not to cooperate with authorities and, prosecutors said, arranging for two other inmates at the county detention center in Annapolis to assault Gardner.
"We take witness intimidation very seriously and will prosecute any case where the witness has been intimidated," prosecutor Jennifer M. Alexander said.
She said that Leaken erroneously thought that Gardner had stolen a credit card from one of his friends when on Aug. 27 he pulled Gardner out of a car on Route 198 in the Russett area of Laurel and kicked, punched and hit him. Gardner, whom authorities found bleeding in the road, was taken to Laurel Regional Hospital.
Leaken was arrested in November and sent to the jail, where shortly thereafter, Gardner was also incarcerated on unrelated charges.
On Feb. 14, Leaken approached Gardner and spoke to him about the case, despite a "keep separate order" from prosecutors that should have kept the two inmates from interacting, Alexander said. Leaken handed Gardner a letter that read "Stop snitching," according to the prosecutor. "How you gonna say I robbed you. ... Man-up and drop these charges."
Later that day, according to Alexander, two inmates beat Gardner with a "lock and sock," a metal lock wrapped in a sock.
Charges in that assault are pending.
Leaken's attorney, John Michael McKenna, acknowledged that his client spoke with Gardner, but he said that Leaken denied writing the letter or arranging for other inmates to attack Gardner.
Robin Harting, superintendent of the Anne Arundel Department of Detention Facilities, said because Leaken was a medium-security inmate, he was granted "unescorted movement" for some activities, which was the case when he confronted Gardner and allegedly handed him the letter. Harting added that Gardner was behind bars and the two had no physical contact, and the two inmates who allegedly assaulted Gardner at the behest of Leaken were not ordered to be separate from Gardner.
"It's not just victims and witnesses, but also gang members and people who have beef on streets, so it's a tremendous problem to enforce keep-separate orders," Harting said.
Gardner, who was later released from the detention center, is wanted on several warrants and has refused to cooperate with prosecutors since the jailhouse beating, Alexander said.
Leaken, who was on probation in Howard County for an assault conviction, will likely face more jail time for violating his probation.