Prater to Serve 6 Years for Assaulting Officers and Hit and Run
Leon Ferrell Prater, 34, of Big Rock, Virginia, was sentenced to 17 years in prison with 11 years of that sentence suspended on the condition he serve a 6 year active sentence and 9 years of supervised probation. Prater had previously pled guilty to two counts of Assault and Battery of a Law Enforcement Officer, Felony Hit and Run, and Attempted Malicious Wounding of a Law Enforcement Officer.
During the sentencing hearing, Commonwealth’s Attorney Gerald Arrington elicited testimony from Deputy Mike Hatfield and Grundy Police Officer Jeff Childress that on March 27, 2015 they responded to a call alleging a domestic disturbance. Officers later found Prater sitting in an automobile that was parked in a drive way inside near the head of Six and Twenty Mile Branch. Despite multiple commands from the officers over their p.a. system, Prater not only refused to exit the vehicle, but instead, he attempted to maneuver the vehicle to avoid apprehension.
When Deputy Hatfield went to move his cruiser to block the driveway, Prater accelerated his vehicle, clipping Officer Childress with his automobile. Once Prater exited the drive way, he let the police officers on a high speed pursuit down the narrow, winding highway at speeds in excess of 60 m.p.h. Upon approaching Hall’s Produce, the Defendant pulled over and exited his vehicle, and started punching the two officers repeatedly. Officers were able to finally subdue and apprehend him after using a taser gun. According to Prater, at the time of the offenses, he “was on all kinds of drugs, such as Cocaine, Suboxone, Valium, and Neurotin, among others.”
At the conclusion of the hearing, Arrington argued that Prater had a lengthy criminal history consisting of 6 prior felony sentencing events and 28 prior misdemeanor criminal convictions. Especially concerning to Arrington was Prater’s prior eluding conviction, assault and battery convictions, and numerous probation violations. Arrington also noted that the Defendant has only worked 2 years of his adult life, and his reason for quitting one of his jobs was because he started smoking crack. Arrington stated that the actions of the Defendant not only put the lives of two officers in jeopardy, but anyone else who may have been travelling on the highway that day. Arrington argued that when police officers leave for work, they don’t know whether they will be coming home, and noted that Officer Childress has a young family who depends on him.
Arrington stated that while he wanted a 35 year sentence, he realized that the Court would not impose a sentence of that magnitude. Instead, he implored the Court to give the Defendant a 10 year active prison sentence to serve. The Court ultimately sentenced Prater to a 6 year active sentence, which was 2 months above the highest end of the sentencing guidelines.
When asked about the sentence, Gerald Arrington stated, “While I appreciate that the Court went above the recommended sentencing guidelines, I felt that Mr. Prater deserved a much harsher sentence. Mr. Prater has an obvious and escalating pattern of showing a disregard for the law, and for the safety of others. Mr. Prater could have easily killed one officer, and he placed the public at risk by recklessly eluding the authorities through our neighborhood streets, and then had the audacity to fight the two officers, all while self admittedly being high on numerous drugs. I personally believe that his conduct should have resulted in a sentence that would have protected the people of Buchanan County for the next twenty years.”