Judge approves attorney for former reserve officer

The former reserve Nashville police officer facing two misdemeanors for pursuing a motorcyclist through Bartholomew County will be represented by a public defender during his upcoming court appearances.

The Whitted law firm in Columbus was named to represent Leonard Burch, 25, Columbus, in a hearing Wednesday in Bartholomew Superior Court 2.

Burch told Magistrate Joe Meek he was unemployed and had been seeking employment in construction and retail, but had not found a job.

Meek set a pre-trial hearing for Burch at 1:30 p.m. April 19 and reset Burch’s trial date for 1:30 p.m. May 18. A half-day has been set aside for the trial as Burch has said in previous court hearings he planned to seek a jury trial. The court requires 10-day written notice prior to the trial date for a defendant to request a jury trial.

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.

Burch was charged in Superior Court 2 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 a previous court 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 the body of 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 died at the scene from head and neck trauma, said Larry Fisher, who then was Bartholomew County coroner.

In addition to receiving court-appointed counsel, Meek also ordered Burch to pay $50 to the county’s public defender fund by April 18.

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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.