/ Articles / Brian Liebscher draws 8-month jail term in obstruction case tied to fatal hit and run
Fifty-five-year-old Brian Liebscher of Sugar Camp will serve eight months in jail and pay a $2,000 fine for misleading investigators searching for his brother, Jeffrey, following a fatal car vs. motorcycle accident on State Highway 17 Aug. 27, 2019.
Liebscher was sentenced Thursday, March 12 in Oneida County Circuit Court after entering a no contest plea to a single count of resisting or obstructing an officer. The charge was filed Sept. 3, 2019 after it was discovered Liebscher had not been truthful with detectives investigating the hit-and-run death of motorcyclist Sean Holtslander.
Jeffrey Liebscher is accused of striking Holtslander’s motorcycle and leaving the scene. Brian Liebscher is scheduled for sentencing April 20 on a charge of hit and run causing death.
According to the criminal complaints filed against both brothers, Jeffrey called Brian right after the fatal accident. Brian then picked Jeffrey up from the scene, near Jeffrey’s driveway, and took him to a residence in Three Lakes. Some time later, when contacted by detectives investigating the accident, Brian claimed he had not heard from his brother.
Authorities were unable to make contact with Jeffrey until approximately 12 hours after the accident, according to court records. Because of the delay, the state was left unable to prove whether Jeffrey was legally intoxicated at the time of the crash, despite the fact that Jeffrey ultimately admitted to consuming alcohol in the hours prior to the crash.
Last Thursday’s court appearance before Judge Patrick O’Melia was originally scheduled as a motion hearing on a defense motion to dismiss the charge. However, the week before, online court records showed it had been changed to a plea and sentencing hearing.
‘More than one opportunity to do the right thing’
At the outset, district attorney Mike Schiek told O’Melia that Liebscher would enter either guilty or no contest pleas and he (Schiek) and defense attorney Ben Lucareli would be free to argue for a sentence they thought appropriate. Liebscher then entered a no contest plea.
The only witness last Thursday was the victim’s mother, Dorothy Holtslander, who gave a victim’s impact statement and asked that Liebscher receive the maximum sentence of nine months in jail and a $10,000 fine.
Lucareli tried to prevent Holtslander from giving her statement because she was not the “real victim” in the case, but O’Melia overruled him, citing state statute.
Holtslander told Liebscher he had numerous chances after picking his brother up and transporting him to Three Lakes “to do the right thing” and turn his brother over to detectives, who were still at the scene of the accident.
“Brian had more than one opportunity to do the right thing after he took that call from Jeffrey,” Holtslander said, looking directly at Liebscher. “He could have called after he picked his brother up, he could have reported it after he picked up the killer. Then, when police questioned him, he could have told the truth. Not once did Brian Liebscher do the right thing. Not once did he care that Sean had a family that loved him.”
“What Brian and Jeffrey did do was go about their lives as if nothing happened,” Holtslander continued. “They could go out to eat, they could present themselves as victims to the community, but people are not stupid. We all know who you are and what you did.”
She said that in his mugshot, Brian Liebscher struck a “defiant pose, as if to say you can’t do anything to me. I am untouchable.”
“Sean was nobody to him, (he wasn’t) from the area,” Holtslander said. “To you and Jeffrey, Sean was nothing more than a bump in the road, to be dealt with by hiding the killer and not going to the police. When will you be held accountable for your actions, or should I say inactions that night? I hope that this court has the courage to give you the maximum sentence for your part in what happened. Because the maximum sentence of nine months in jail and fines is nothing compared to the life sentence you have given my family.”
Schiek then made his sentencing argument. He also asked for the maximum jail sentence.
“This case is really a case about a bigger picture in which his brother, Jeffrey Liebscher, who has been charged and convicted now and awaiting sentencing on that case in a couple months when the PSI (comes back),” Schiek said. “Brian Liebscher needs to take responsibility for his part in the big picture, the bigger case.”
He also echoed Holtslander’s assertions that Brian Liebscher “was given so many opportunities to do the right thing” but failed to do so, opting instead to “protect his family.”
“What I think everybody understands, judge, is that his brother Jeffrey Liebscher had been consuming alcohol that night, and then involved in a vehicle on motorcycle incident right in front of his driveway,” Schiek said. “And we know that Jeffrey Liebscher admitted to drinking, and, unfortunately, what we don’t have is the evidence to prove anything that would corroborate his statements. The reason we don’t have any of that evidence, judge, is based on the proactive approach that Brian Liebscher took to hide that evidence.”
“To the state it is very clear that if Jeffrey Liebscher had been drinking, had been arrested, and they had taken blood, it very likely could likely have been determined that he was under the influence or over the legal limit. It could have proved otherwise, we don’t know the answer to that,” Schiek continued. “And the reason, judge, that we don’t know that is that Brian Liebscher took it upon himself to hide the evidence and make certain that law enforcement never found out.”
He said when law enforcement talked to Brian Liebscher around 4:40 a.m., about six hours after the accident, He said he had not seen his brother that night, and “had no contact whatsoever” with him even though he had already taken his brother to Three Lakes.
Schiek argued this is not a probation case.
“This is more of a punitive sentence,” he argued.
Lucareli said his client made the decision he did that night because “he was thrust into a situation nobody should be in.”
He also noted Liebscher has no criminal history, which reflects on his “good character.”
“When Jeffrey pulled Brian into this situation, Brian did what I believe anybody with a brother would do, and that was try to protect and help his brother,” Lucareli told the judge. “And the state told how he hid Jeffrey and took steps to evade law enforcement. All the while, Brian was not aware that law enforcement was involved in this in terms of there was no law enforcement involved with him, yet.”
“Are they (Liebscher’s actions) aggravating? Yes. Are those the actions that were dishonest to law enforcement that brought Brian here today? No, they’re not,” Lucareli said.
He repeated that when law enforcement questioned Brian Liebscher the morning after the accident, he did what anyone in such a situation would do.
“I don’t think anyone’s when their brother comes to them for help is to throw them under the bus and call police and have their own brother arrested,” Lucareli insisted. “Nobody would do that.”
He added later Brian Liebscher’s actions didn’t hinder the investigation in any way.
Lucareli then asked the judge to sentence Liebscher to a long term of probation with any jail time imposed and stayed.
‘I wish I could take everything back’
When it was his turn to speak, Liebscher said he regrets his actions that night.
“Words cannot express how sorry I am that Sean lost his life, and Dorothy and her family had to go through this,” Liebscher said. “This is something I wouldn’t wish upon anybody, getting a phone call and not knowing what is going on and then finding out, it plays with your mind and it has been very difficult. It has bothered me every day since this has happened. I just wish I could take everything back and have it never have happened.”
O’Melia questioned Liebscher about the exact sequence of events, learning that when he picked his brother up, they didn’t drive past the crash site, but instead took back roads to get onto County A for the rest of the trip to Three Lakes. Liebscher told the judge he kept questioning his brother what was going on and it wasn’t until they were almost to Three Lakes when he learned the truth.
Before pronouncing sentence, O’Melia disputed Lucareli’s claim that Brian Liebscher’s actions had played no part in the investigation into Holtslander’s death.
“The obstruction here caused the delay perhaps of getting other evidence,” O’Melia said. “And if he had affirmatively called police, and said what was going on, yes that would have led to more activity, getting warrants, because I can understand why they couldn’t just barge into Jeffrey’s house.”
He then went through the factors he had to consider in arriving at a sentencing decision, noting almost everything was in Liebscher’s favor.
“But when it comes down to the gravity of the offense, he gets a phone call and he leaves work and picks up his brother in a situation that might make a normal, sober person … picking up your brother in the dead of the night and have him come out of the woods because he recognizes your headlights, get in the car, drive down a road out of the way — Pine Lake or Camp Four Road — all to get to Three Lakes. And you saw that the road was blockaded, and I would think being told by his brother that he had been in an accident and someone was hurt or killed, that you would put two-and-two together,” O’Melia said. “And maybe you just didn’t want to put two-and-two together. But I think at that moment, under those circumstances and at that time of night, you knew exactly what happened.”
He asked Liebscher how he would feel if his brother had killed someone in his own family?
“On this night, when you were tested to do the right thing, you didn’t,” O’Melia told Liebscher.
He agreed with Schiek that probation would not be appropriate in this case.
“Imposed and stayed, I don’t see a need for that,” O’Melia said. “This is a punishment case and a deterrent case.”
He then wondered aloud if Liebscher would make a different decision if faced with the same circumstances, only to say “I don’t know.”
“I’ve often said, Mr. Liebscher, that you judge yourself by what you’re capable of, others judge you by what you’ve done,” O’Melia said. “And even though 55 years of crime free, good living, apparently that has been overshadowed to the point, in my opinion, that it requires incarceration.”
He then ordered Liebscher to serve 8 months in jail with Huber privileges, and pay a $2,000 fine plus court costs. He granted Lucareli’s request that his client be given up to seven days to report to jail to start serving his sentence.
Jeffrey Liebscher faces a maximum of 35 years in prison when he’s sentenced in April.
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at [email protected]