Columbus man accused of false informing reckless driving

A former reserve Nashville police officer charged with two misdemeanors while pursuing a motorcyclist through Bartholomew County has asked Bartholomew Superior Court 2 officials to appoint an attorney to represent him.

Leonard Burch, 25, of Columbus, appeared Wednesday afternoon in Bartholomew Superior Court 2 for a pre-trial hearing.

Burch initially told Magistrate Joe Meek he planned to represent himself in the case. But after a series of questions from Meek, Burch decided to seek court-appointed counsel.

Meek asked Burch to turn in a written application seeking a public defender by end-of-day Monday and set an 8 a.m. March 8 hearing to rule on whether an attorney will be appointed. The application requires Burch to provide information on income and whether he has enough resources to hire his own attorney. Burch’s bench trial is set for 1:30 p.m. March 23.

A probable-cause affidavit filed in Bartholomew County accuses the former off-duty officer of pursuing 18-year-old motorcyclist Xavier Scrogham of Hope recklessly at a high rate of speed through Columbus and part of rural Bartholomew County about 11:36 p.m. Aug. 29. Scrogham crashed and died after being chased by Burch.

Afterward, Burch was charged with false informing, a Class B misdemeanor, and reckless driving, a Class C misdemeanor, court documents state. If convicted on both misdemeanors, the maximum sentence Burch could receive is 240 days in jail and a $1,500 fine, Meek explained during the hearing.

The affidavit accuses Burch of making a false statement to a 911 dispatcher that Scrogham’s motorcycle had passed Burch’s police car going 120 mph before Burch began his pursuit in the southbound lanes of U.S. 31 near Lowell Road. Investigators concluded that Scrogham was going no faster than 70 mph in the 55 mph speed zone when the motorcycle first caught Burch’s attention, according to court records.

A Bartholomew County Sheriff’s deputy found Scrogham, who had been thrown from his motorcycle, in a field off Sunland Road east of Columbus at 11:43 p.m. Aug. 29.

Scrogham had missed a 90-degree turn and went off the road, striking a telephone pole guy wire that knocked him off the motorcycle, sheriff deputies said. The impact knocked off Scrogham’s helmet, and he died at the scene from head and neck trauma, Bartholomew County Coroner Larry Fisher determined.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.