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Man pleads guilty in assault cases

Clyde Burrell Jr. (Buy photo)

By Alex Bridges

FRONT ROYAL -- A town man faces serving up to 15 years for attacking and injuring law enforcement officers in Front Royal.

Clyde Eugene Burrell Jr. pleaded guilty in Warren County Circuit Court on Tuesday to committing malicious bodily injury against a Front Royal police officer on July 28, 2012. Burrell also pleaded guilty to assault and battery of a second officer hurt during the incident and to a misdemeanor count of obstruction of justice for resisting arrest.

In addition, Burrell pleaded guilty to committing malicious bodily injury to a sheriff's deputy in the Warren County Jail on March 30.

Burrell, 34, formerly of West 11th Street, appeared with public defender Timothy Coyne. Burrell has remained incarcerated since his arrest during the July 28 incident. However, following the March 30 incident Burrell has been held at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center in Frederick County.

Coyne indicated that his client suffers from mental illness and also was likely intoxicated at the time of the earlier incident. In response to questions from Judge Dennis L. Hupp, Burrell said he does take medication for mental illness. Coyne filed information with the court concerning Burrell's mental health history.

"While we did not file a motion on sanity, we certainly feel his mental health will be a significant factor when looking at his disposition," Coyne said.

An agreement reached between Coyne and Commonwealth's Attorney Brian Madden called for Burrell to plead guilty to the four charges. In exchange for the pleas, the commonwealth agreed to ask the court to dismiss Burrell's charge of attempted capital murder of a law enforcement officer, a second count of assault and battery related to the earlier incident and a charge of assault and battery from March 30.

Hupp accepted the plea agreement and scheduled Burrell's sentencing for Jan. 14. Coyne and Madden told the judge they anticipate calling witnesses to testify at the sentencing.

Malicious bodily injury carries a mandatory minimum sentence of two years to the maximum of 30 years in prison. Assault and battery of a law enforcement officer carries a mandatory minimum of six months in jail to five years in prison.

The plea agreement limits any active prison sentence imposed by the court to 15 years, though the defense can argue for less.

Madden explained that at approximately 1 a.m. on July 28, 2012, Sgt. Joseph Courtney, of the Front Royal Police Department responded to a report of a man possibly exposing himself on West 17th Street. Courtney found a man on North Shenandoah Avenue matching the description given by the caller, parked his cruiser and began to walk toward Burrell.

At that point, Madden said Burrell "bull-rushed" or ran at Courtney and attacked the officer. Courtney entered into what the officer would describe as a "life-and-death struggle" with Burrell, Madden said. Burrell had Courtney pinned on the ground.

Police detective Jason Lethcoe came to the scene to assist Courtney and tackled Burrell to the ground, Madden said. Officers used pepper spray on Burrell. A person who witnessed the incident also came to help. Eventually authorities subdued Burrell enough to take him into custody, although he continued to resist officers, Madden said.

Courtney spent two days in the hospital after suffering from lacerations to the face, arms and legs, Madden said. Courtney received stitches to his head and doctors worried he may have suffered a scratched cornea. He then spent the next six months off duty and then working light duty before returning to full duty. Lethcoe suffered minor injuries and was treated and released from the hospital.

On March 30, around 1 a.m., officers at the jail responded to an argument between inmates, Madden said. When authorities determined that Burrell was involved, officers sought to separate him from the group and place him in isolation. Madden said Burrell was not happy with that decision made by Deputy Thomas Ratigan of the Sheriff's Office. Madden advised the judge that video cameras captured the incident. Burrell put items from his cell on the floor in front of Ratigan.

"While [Burrell] was doing that, Deputy Ratigan's testimony would be that Mr. Burrell basically said to him, while he was moving his personal property around, that he was going to -- quote -- when I get out on the street I'm going to beat you to a pulp," Madden said.

When Burrell put his mattress on the floor in front of him, he lunged forward and, with his right fist, punched Ratigan in the nose and face, Madden said. The deputy fell back but other officers came to assist and put Burrell in restraints. Ratigan went to the hospital for treatment of a broken nose and cheekbone. Ratigan missed a few days of work, Madden said.

"In this case, your honor, one blow is sufficient for malicious wounding," Madden said.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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