WILLOUGHBY, Ohio– The man accused in a drunk driving crash that killed a Willoughby police officer admitted his guilt Monday morning.
Scott Leland, 45, pleaded guilty to aggravated vehicular homicide and OVI in connection with a September 21 accident that killed 32-year-old Willoughby police officer Jason Gresko.
“Prior to getting into his vehicle and operating his vehicle, Mr. Leland had consumed a number of alcoholic beverages,” said Assistant Lake County Prosecutor Paul Kaplan.
Officer Gresko was on his way to a call.
Dash cam video from his cruiser shows his emergency lights were on.
The dash cam shows the officer travelling northbound on Harmony Lane in Willoughby around 9:30 p.m.
It also shows the pickup, driven by Leland, turn in front of Gresko, forcing the officer to swerve and hit a tree, killing him.
“The defendant was further reckless in not, in turning his vehicle in front of Officer Gresko without realizing how close that Officer Gresko’s vehicle was at the time; he decided to make that turn,” Kaplan said.
“The court accepts Scott Leland’s plea of guilty and I find Scott Leland guilty,” said Lake County Common Pleas Judge Joe Gibson.
In exchange for Leland’s guilty plea, prosecutors agreed to drop two other aggravated vehicular homicide charges and two charges of child endangering, filed because two children were in his truck. They were not injured.
Prosecutors also agreed to recommend a sentence of four and a half years, although defense attorneys believe he only deserves one year.
“He immediately went to Officer Gresko’s aid; unfortunately there was no aid to be given at that point,” Defense Attorney Jerome Emoff told FOX 8.
Leland’s blood alcohol level was .149, nearly twice the legal limit.
Judge Joe Gibson has the final say in sentencing, which could range from probation to up to five and a half years.
Leland had no comment after the proceeding.
“He has always cooperated. He has felt guilty about what happened and his part in it and that will be with him for the rest of his life,” Emoff said.
Gresko left behind a wife and three-year-old daughter.
He worked part-time with the Willoughby police department since 2003 and also worked for the Cleveland Clinic Police Department.
Leland has agreed not to ask for early release from prison for at least six months, and his driver’s license could be suspended anywhere from three years to the rest of his life.
Officer Gresko’s family is divided on whether they agree with the prosecutor’s recommendation.
Sentencing is scheduled for August 26.