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Man accused of pointing gun in road rage case enters pleas

January 19, 2007|by PEPPER BALLARD

HAGERSTOWN - A New York man was ordered Thursday in Washington County Circuit Court to spend 90 days in jail for pointing a handgun at another motorist while the men drove on Interstate 81 in May 2006.

Mark F. Lappies, 50, of 11031 Cobbville Road in Adams, N.Y., entered an Alford plea to second-degree assault and pleaded guilty to transporting a handgun in a vehicle in the incident reported May 24, 2006.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but admits that the prosecution has sufficient evidence to gain a conviction.

Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long Jr. ordered Lappies to serve two concurrent two-year sentences for each count but suspended all but 90 days of the sentences, which were ordered to be served at the Washington County Detention Center.

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Washington County Assistant State's Attorney Robert Veil said a man driving south on I-81 near Williamsport called Maryland State Police at about 12:40 a.m. after a man driving beside him pointed a handgun at his car.

Veil said that when the victim picked up his cell phone, Lappies waved the handgun, tailgated the victim and flashed his headlights, all of which Lappies denied when Long questioned him about the incident.

Lappies admitted he was "pretty drunk." He said his handgun had fallen to the floor and the victim likely saw him as he was checking the safety and trying to put it back in its holster, which he steadied on his steering wheel.

"I have a hard time buying that. I really do," Long told him. "I guess you deny flipping the bird, flashing your lights at him and tailgating him, too."

Veil said Lappies was apprehended in West Virginia and charged in that state with driving under the influence.

Lappies' attorney, John Salvatore, said Lappies had "an unblemished record" and is active in charitable community organizations. He said Lappies was traveling to South Carolina at the time of the incident. Salvatore said Lappies is an alcoholic and was in treatment before the incident occurred.

Lappies told Long, "I would never intentionally point a gun at someone else."

Long told Lappies, "Things happen in a heartbeat that might not otherwise happen upon reflection ... Thank goodness nobody was hurt."

Long ordered Lappies to pay a $300 fine on the handgun violation and to pay $195 in court costs.

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