WEST CHESTER — While fleeing from police, a Willistown teenager high on psychedelic mushrooms seriously injured a paramedic summoned to take him to a hospital.
On Tuesday, the recovering paramedic was surrounded by about 25 supporters, many from the Malvern Fire Department, as they testified during the youth's sentencing.
After undergoing two surgeries for ruptured knee tendons and spending 6½ weeks immobilized, Richard Constantine said he was slowly recovering.
"I was a very active person before this," said Constantine. And while he is able to walk again, it is uncertain if he will be able to return to work as a firefighter.
Witnesses for both sides testified during a 90-minute hearing before Judge Anthony Sarcione sentenced Michael B. Atterbury of the 400 block of Old Covered Bridge Road to 18 to 49 months in Chester County Prison.
"I'm not going to send a 19-year-old to a state prison," said Sarcione. "I believe the young man shows true remorse. It was a calamity of circumstances brought about by drugs."
Assistant District Attorney Thomas Ost-Prisco had argued the youth deserved a sentence of 2½ to five years in a state prison.
"It was a criminal, reckless act. He took a lot of illegal drugs before the police arrived, and it necessitated the call," said Ost-Prisco.
On Aug. 7, 2008, Willistown police and emergency responders with the Malvern Fire Department answered a call from Carol Atterbury, who said her son was acting strangely in the 400 block of Old Covered Bridge Road.
When police arrived, they learned Michael Atterbury had substance-abuse issues. The youth was acting wildly, and when police couldn't control him, they Tasered him.
Still unable to subdue him, police Tasered him again before he ran toward the street and collided violently with Constantine.
On Feb. 9, Atterbury pleaded guilty to aggravated assault.
During his testimony Tuesday, Constantine said he and other emergency responders were standing at what they believed was a safe distance and watching as police tried to subdue Atterbury.
"He charged me and knocked me to the ground. I fell on my knees and felt a burning sensation," Constantine said. Unable to move his legs, Constantine crawled away.
After he was taken to an emergency room, Constantine learned the blow had ruptured tendons in both of his knees. He was immobilized for 6½ weeks after his surgery.
" I can't put into words the pain of rehabilitation," Constantine said.
Eventually he was able to walk again, but he said, "It's proving to be very hard to just walk up and down steps."
Constantine said he wanted to be a firefighter all his life, but firefighters must be able to lift a 200-pound person and he doesn't know if he will be able to do that.
"I want Mr. Atterbury to serve his sentence," Constantine told the judge.
Friends of Atterbury testified Atterbury was a kind-hearted boy who had problems with drugs but was not violent.
A dean of students at a boarding school Atterbury attended for three years said Atterbury had never had a discipline problem and had passed random drug tests conducted every three weeks.
During the hearing, Atterbury turned to Constantine in the back of the courtroom.
"I'd like to apologize. I'm really, really sorry about the events that occurred that day," Atterbury said.
Atterbury said he was clean for three years but started taking drugs again when he was on spring break during his senior year. On Aug. 7, 2008, he took a large portion of psychedelic mushrooms.
"I don't remember anything until I woke up in the hospital. The only thing I remember was trying to run away from something that was causing me pain," Atterbury said.
Atterbury said he immediately went into a treatment program then to a halfway house in Scranton.
"I deeply regret the pain and suffering caused by my poor choices. I'm completely responsible for my actions," said Atterbury.
Atterbury's attorney, Michael DiFabio, had urged the judge to consider a creative sentence such as extensive community service, long-term probation and electronic monitoring.
But Sarcione said incarceration was necessary due to the seriousness of the crime.
Sarcione warned Atterbury that he was given a state prison sentence but will be able to serve it at a county prison as long as he is on good behavior.
"If you act up, I'll leave it up to the warden whether to send you to state prison," Sarcione said.
Atterbury must also pay a $100 fine, undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation and follow all of it requirements. He also must perform 120 hours of community service upon parole. An attorney for the Atterbury family said workers compensation was paying Constantine's medical bills and their insurance would cover other losses incurred by the victim.
Afterward, Atterbury was handcuffed and led away while friends of the family tried to console Carol Atterbury.
By ANNE PICKERING
April 1, 2009
Daily Local News