Former officer considering plea deal; Court schedule extended in fatal motorcycle pursuit case

A former reserve Nashville police officer charged with two misdemeanors after he pursued a motorcyclist through Bartholomew County is considering entering into a plea bargain agreement.

Magistrate Joseph Meek on Wednesday rescheduled a pre-trial hearing for Leonard Burch, 25, of Columbus, for 1:30 p.m. June 29 after talking with Bartholomew County Prosecutor Bill Nash and defense attorney Alex Whitted at the hearing.

Meek said he was setting June 29 as a possible change-of-plea hearing for Burch at the request of the attorneys.

The June 29 date was originally when Burch’s bench trial in Bartholomew Superior Court 2 was scheduled to begin.

Now, Burch’s trial will go forward starting at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 3 if the prosecution and defense do not come to a plea agreement by June 29, Meek said.

Burch was told by the magistrate that he must appear at the hearings. If Burch does not, a warrant could be issued for his arrest, Meek said.

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 starting at 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 had missed a 90-degree turn and went off the road, striking a telephone pole guy-wire that knocked him off the motorcycle, sheriff’s deputies said.

The impact knocked off his helmet and he died at the scene from head and neck trauma, the Bartholomew County Coroner’s office said.

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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.