A Roanoke-based judge imposed a three-year prison term Wednesday for a former paramedic who drained powerful painkillers from vials stored in ambulances and injected them into his arms to feed an addiction.
Jeffrey Leedy was sentenced for tampering with doses of fentanyl, removing the drug and replacing it with a saline solution in a way that prosecutors said likely deprived legitimate patients of pain relief.
About 50 vials were compromised from November 2018 to May 2019, a period when Leedy was as an emergency medical services worker for Roanoke County Fire and Rescue, LewisGale Medical Center in Salem and Centra Lynchburg General Hospital.
Leedy, 32, has since overcome his addiction and become a model in his drug recovery program, according to evidence presented in U.S. District Court in Roanoke.
Judge Michael Urbanski was also told of Leedy’s decorated — and now defunct — career in emergency medicine, which began when he was a teenager growing up in Wythe County.
“The good you have done is manifest,” Urbanski told Leedy as a crowd of fellow recovering addicts watched from the courtroom gallery in a show of support. While what he did was a “terrible crime,” the judge said, it “does not have to define you the rest of your life.”
Under a plea agreement reached earlier this year, Leedy had faced a sentence of between 18 and 51 months.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Ramseyer called for a punishment at the high end of that range, saying that Leedy could have just stolen the drugs without endangering the very patients he was supposed to be treating.
“But he knew he would be caught” more quickly if he did that, Ramseyer said.
In an emotional plea for leniency, defense attorney Tony Anderson pointed to Leedy’s outstanding tenure as an EMS worker until he was overtaken by an addiction that Anderson called “the monster,” and the progress he has since made in treatment programs.
In 2018, Leedy became deeply troubled after responding to two calls in which he witnessed a newborn baby take its last breaths. Already grieving the death of his grandmother, who was a major influence in his life, he resorted to the drugs he had taken earlier for kidney stones.
“In this dark moment, Mr. Leedy turned to these powerful opiates to take away the immense grief and trauma he was experiencing,” the defense said in court documents.
As his drug habit worsened, Leedy visited fire and rescue departments late at night when no one else was present, took fentanyl from storage boxes and then glued caps back on vials that he had disturbed.
Urbanski allowed Leedy to remain free on bond until he is told to report to prison.
“I don’t think you are a bad person, Mr. Leedy,” Urbanski said in pronouncing his sentence. “I don’t think you intended to harm your patients. I think you were dealing with that monster.”