City Man Gets Jail Time For Assault On Firefighter
Defendant Apologizes, Says He Doesn’t Remember Attack
Posted: February 22, 2013
HARRISONBURG — On Tuesday, a Rockingham County judge sentenced a Harrisonburg man to eight months in jail for assaulting a city firefighter during a medical call.
William Franklin Haliburton, 20, pleaded guilty Dec. 4 to one felony count of assaulting a firefighter engaged in public duties as a result of a December 2011 incident.
Judge James Lane sentenced Haliburton to five years in prison with all but eight months suspended.
Lane said firefighters should be free from fear of attack while they are helping the community.
“They’re out there to protect the public,” he said.
Prosecutors say the Harrisonburg Fire Department and Harrisonburg Rescue Squad responded to Haliburton’s home off Reservoir Street around 6 p.m. Dec. 12, 2011, for a medical call. Haliburton was being helped outside the home by firefighters when he became violent.
Prosecutors say the defendant punched the firefighter and later hit him with a miniature baseball bat.
The attack left the firefighter with a gash on his head, requiring five staples to close. He was taken to Rockingham Memorial Hospital, where he was treated and released.
During Tuesday’s hearing in Rockingham County Circuit Court, several of Haliburton’s family members and friends spoke on his behalf.
“He would not hurt anyone,” said his aunt, Joanndra Haliburton, of Richmond. “This is completely out of character. He was obviously not in his right mind that night.”
Commonwealth’s Attorney Marsha Garst said Haliburton had admitted to hospital staff that he had been using bath salts — a synthetic drug that can mimic the effects of cocaine — before the incident.
Haliburton has since denied using bath salts.
His defense attorney, Andrew Graves, told Lane that Haliburton was dealing with a lot of stress at the time of the incident and doesn’t recall what happened. Graves said four close family members had died within a few months of the assault and his client was having a difficult time coping.
Regardless of the sentence, Graves told Lane, Haliburton won’t get in trouble again.
“He has a tremendous family that will make sure he never steps into this courtroom again,” he said.
Haliburton told Lane he was sorry.
“I’d like to seriously apologize to all the firefighters,” said Haliburton, who has no prior criminal record. “I feel genuinely sorry. He was just coming to do his job.”
Contact Pete DeLea at 574-6278 or firstname.lastname@example.org