No jail time for Mexico man in officer assault

Sep. 23—SOUTH PARIS — A Mexico man whose car struck a Rumford police officer during a vehicle chase last year will spend no time in jail, a judge ruled Thursday.

Joshua R. Billings, 28, pleaded guilty Thursday in Oxford County Superior Court to a felony charge of assault on an officer, which carries a maximum prison sentence of five years.

He also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of driving to endanger and operating while license suspended or revoked.

In crafting that agreement with prosecutors, he agreed to be sentenced to up to two years on the felony, but would only be ordered to serve 90 days of that sentence or less time in jail.

Assistant District Attorney Richard Beauchesne argued that Billings should spend some time behind bars so he recognizes and appreciates the wrongfulness of his actions" and send a message to other folks who "might find themselves in a similar situation."

In this case, Beauchesne said, "this is a really serious charge."

The officer who was injured "feared for his life," he said.

No officer who is making a traffic stop should expect this might happen to him, Beauchesne said.

Defense attorney Maurice Porter said his client "didn't need much time" to recognize the seriousness of his conduct.

Billings turned himself in to authorities the same day as the crime and he apologized to the officer who was injured, Porter said.

He said Billings has been working for months for a forestry company, a job that he could lose if he were incarcerated. He relies on that job to pay child support.

Billings suffers from anxiety and is receiving services to help with that, Porter said.

"This felony conviction itself is something that's going to have a pretty negative impact on a big portion of his life going forward," Porter said, even if he doesn't spend him behind bars.

"I am certain that any actual jail time imposed by the court is going to set him back far further than is going to be beneficial to him or the community," Porter said.

Judge Tammy Ham-Thompson sentenced Billings to two years.

"You put the officer's life at grave risk. Fortunately, there weren't serious consequences," she said.

But she suspended all of that time, noting Billings appeared to be "taking significant strides trying to make better choices and moving forward in a positive direction."

Although incarceration is often used "to punish people for violating the law and making choices that result in such consequences," Ham-Thompson said Billings appears to have started down the road towards rehabilitation.

"If I were to incarcerate you, I'm afraid that . . . the strides that you have made will all be for naught and I don't want to do that," she said.

On the misdemeanor charges, Ham-Thompson imposed fines of $500 apiece; on the charge of driving to endanger, she also imposed a loss of license for 30 days.

Billings handed his license to a marshal in the courtroom.

He will be on probation for two years. If he were to violate his probation, he could be ordered to serve up to two years of his suspended sentence in prison.

Police said Rumford police Cpl. Lawrence Winson was parked on Franklin Street monitoring traffic and saw a silver sports car speed past about 8:30 p.m.

The 2008 Hyundai Tiburon, which police later determined was driven by Billings, went through a blind intersection on the wrong side of the road, according to police.

Winson activated his lights and siren, attempting to stop the car, but Billings continued driving on the wrong side of the road and going through stop signs, police said.

The pursuit continued to Flood Street in Mexico, where Billings pulled into a driveway and shut off teh car lights, police said. As Winson got out of his cruiser and approached the car to order Billings to get out of his, Billings revved the engine.

Winson pounded on the driver's side window and ordered Billings to stop, but he backed the car up, striking Winson's right hand and knocking him to the ground, police said.

When Winson saw the car coming at him, he feared he was about to be run over and rolled out of the way, police said.

Billings sped away with the car lights still off, police said.

About an hour later, Billings' family members notified police he was hiding at his residence and assisted police in arranging for him to turn himself in at the Rumford Police Department, police said.

Winson, who suffered an injury to his hand in the incident, was treated at Rumford Hospital and released, police said.