Drunk driver who killed Philly motorcycle cop pleads guilty

Lorenzo: Killed in crash.
Lorenzo: Killed in crash.
Posted: October 17, 2013

A BUCKS COUNTY man who was driving drunk the wrong way on Interstate 95 in 2012 and killed Philadelphia motorcycle officer Brian Lorenzo in the resulting crash pleaded guilty yesterday instead of going on trial.

John Leck, 48, was brought into a courtroom packed with cops - including Commissioner Charles Ramsey in the front row - to plead guilty to third-degree murder and homicide by vehicle while driving under the influence.

When sentenced Dec. 2 by Common Pleas Judge M. Teresa Sarmina, Leck could receive a maximum sentence of 25 to 50 years in state prison, though his attorney said he is hoping for a term of six to 20 years.

Leck entered his "open" guilty plea after turning down a negotiated plea with the District Attorney's Office that would have sent him to prison for 10 to 20 years for Lorenzo's death on July 8, 2012.

"This is his decision. I didn't tell him to do one thing or another," defense attorney Michael K. Parlow said.

"He made the decision [to plead guilty] to spare the officer's family the emotion of going through a trial. He wanted to take responsibility for his actions, and he also wanted to show that he is remorseful," Parlow said.

He said Leck, a bill collector, and his family wanted the opportunity to speak with Sarmina during the Dec. 2 sentencing hearing to convey that he is a "blue-collar, hardworking, 48-year-old guy who has never been in trouble before."

Lorenzo's widow and children will also be allowed to give victim-impact statements. Yesterday, escorted by a phalanx of police officers, they left the courthouse without speaking with reporters.

Assistant District Attorney Jacqueline Coelho said she was not sure what sentence she would ask Sarmina to give Leck.

She said she had been ready to prove to a jury "that what this defendant did was a conscious disregard for the value of human life and that is malicious and that is murder."

After getting drunk at TGI Fridays on Street Road in Bensalem, Leck, of Levittown, got into his Audi A6 and drove the wrong way on I-95 near the Cottman Avenue exit just after 3 a.m.

Highway Patrol Officer Lorenzo, a 23-year police veteran, husband and father of three who was riding his department motorcycle home after his shift, died at the scene after Leck hit him headfirst.

"It's just a tragedy all the way around, but at least the family is going to be spared a trial. That's very important," Ramsey said after leaving the courthouse.

"There is no sentence that you can give that will bring Officer Lorenzo back, unfortunately. But this individual should not go free any time soon," Ramsey added.

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