A man who crashed his truck into a home in a quiet residential zone in Belfast last summer during a high-speed police chase has pleaded guilty.
Leonid Richter, 24, of Belfast, may have been driving as fast as 100 miles per hour when he drove into the house on Condon Street, according to a report written after the June 30 crash by Belfast police Officer Lew Dyer, who said he was following him at a slower speed. The truck plowed into the living room at about 1 a.m., just 20 minutes after the homeowner and his son had gone to bed after watching a baseball game.
“Every assessment is if I had been sitting in those chairs longer than I did I would most likely have been killed,” the homeowner wrote in a victim impact statement that he delivered Tuesday at Richter’s plea hearing at the Waldo Judicial Center. “The impact was such a shock that it was felt many homes away from us and neighbors gathered outside … The image of the truck lights flashing throughout our first floor with the blown insulation floating in the air made me think of a war zone and that we were under attack.”
Although no one was hurt, the house was badly damaged in the crash. Richter’s truck smashed the concrete foundation, ripped up the floor, brought down electrical wires and broke water pipes in the basement, which caused flooding, according to Dyer’s report.
Richter, who police said had a blood alcohol level of more than double the legal limit 2 1/2 hours after the crash, was charged with seven criminal counts. Those include eluding an officer, reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon, aggravated criminal mischief, operating under the influence of alcohol with one prior conviction, driving to endanger, operating while license was suspended or revoked and motor vehicle speeding 30 plus miles over the speed limit, which was 25 miles per hour.
On Tuesday, Richter pleaded guilty to the charges and received a three-year deferred disposition sentence. If he can meet all the requirements agreed upon by the Waldo County District Attorney’s office and his defense attorney, including undergoing substance abuse and mental health treatment, all the charges will be dismissed except for operating under the influence of alcohol with one prior conviction and driving to endanger.
The sentence for those charges would include fines totaling $1,275, a three-year license suspension and 364 days in jail, with all but 100 days suspended, followed by a year of probation and restitution to be determined.
An unsuccessful outcome, however, would result in open sentencing on all seven counts and restitution of $153,866.
The homeowner told the court that his family is just now starting the rebuilding process on the home and that the incident was deeply traumatic to the six people who were in the house that night. He said he has gone through many phases of grief because of the incident, including shock, anger and despair.
“These experiences cannot be taken away from my family but I hope and pray that there is something good to come of this tragedy and that is my ask of the court,” the homeowner wrote in his statement. “I ask that this sentencing be what is necessary to be sure that this is rock bottom for Leo and this is the last incident for him. I need this to be the incident that turned Leo’s life around.”