A former deputy superintendent of the Maryland Natural Resources Police who served with the Maryland State and UMES police and for a few months was interim police chief in Crisfield was granted probation before judgment (PBJ) for driving offenses while under the influence of alcohol.
It was on Saturday, April 17 around 9:30 p.m. when Ernest J. Leatherbury Jr., 55, was in his departmental 2017 Chevrolet Tahoe stopped at a traffic signal on eastbound U.S. 50 and Rt. 707 in Berlin when he backed into another vehicle and pulled away.
That driver, who was uninjured, called the Berlin Barrack and remained on the phone as he followed the SUV to where it stopped in a parking lot off U.S. 113.
The troopers who arrived detected an odor of alcohol and took Leatherbury to the barrack for processing, and released him to a sober driver.
In District Court in Snow Hill on Oct. 26 Leatherbury entered guilty pleas to driving while under the influence of alcohol and negligent driving. Senior Judge Bruce L. Wade struck the findings of guilt and placed Leatherbury on two years of unsupervised probation with an order that he complete 100 hours of community service by Oct. 1, 2022, pay nearly $800 in fines and costs, abstain from alcohol and drugs, and work or attend school regularly.
If Leatherbury completes all of his commitments successfully he will have an opportunity to petition the court to have his charges expunged. His attorney, John Phoebus, said by email that Leatherbury "looks forward" to his community service time which will be spend with local charitable and nonprofit organizations on the Lower Shore.
The Somerset County native retired from the MSP as a lieutenant colonel and barrack commander in 2012 after more than 28 years of service. For some six months between 2006-07 he worked as interim police chief in Crisfield, a position his father Ernest Leatherbury Sr. held for six years before being felled by a heart attack while at work in February 2003.
Leatherbury Jr. after retirement from the MSP was hired by UMES in 2013 to be its chief of police before being appointed to serve as NRP’s second in command in April 2016.
After the incident last spring he was suspended and later resigned from his post.
At court Phoebus said that the victim "didn’t want to see anything bad happen" to his client and that restitution was paid for the damage to the vehicle. Leatherbury appeared remotely and was apologetic for his behavior.
"The disposition my client received was very consistent with what Judge Wade imposes on any first routine offense DUI defendant," Phoebus said. "It was important for the defense to make sure that my client was not treated any worse as a result of his career in law enforcement. Judge Wade imposed a fair sentence and did not treat my client any differently that he would have a civilian.
Phoebus added that "Too often, law enforcement are held to a higher standard and receive harsher punishment when they make human mistakes. My client is no longer a law enforcement officer as a result of this incident, so outside of the judicial process, he paid a steep price for this mistake. Hopefully a single mistake such as this will pale in comparison to the distinguished career Mr. Leatherbury had with the Maryland State Police, the UMES Campus Police, and the Natural Resources Police."
The special prosecutor in this case was Zachary Reid, an assistant state’s attorney from Caroline County.