A Titusville-area man has pleaded guilty to fleeing police in three separate high-speed car chases earlier this year and will avoid trial.

William F. Birchard Jr., 41, was scheduled to go on trial in Crawford County Court of Common Pleas this month for leading Titusville Police Department on chases on Jan. 28, March 12 and March 19.

Birchard entered guilty pleas Thursday before President Judge Anthony Vardaro to charges related to fleeing police in each of those cases as part of a plea agreement with the Crawford County District Attorney’s Office.

Birchard pleaded guilty to a third-degree felony count of fleeing police and a summary count of driving without a license in the Jan. 28 case; a third-degree felony count of fleeing police and a summary count of driving without a license in the March 19 case; and a second-degree misdemeanor count of fleeing police in the March 12 case.

He faces up to 42 years in jail and $55,400 in fines when he’s sentenced Nov. 7.

As part of Birchard’s plea agreement, the other charges in those cases won’t be prosecuted.

Also as part of his plea agreement, the DA’s office won’t prosecute charges filed against Birchard in a fourth case filed by Titusville Police Department. Birchard was charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and scattering rubbish — all stemming from his arrest by Titusville officers March 26.

In the Jan. 28 case, one of the Titusville police officers involved in that pursuit fired twice at the sport utility vehicle that Birchard was driving, but Birchard wasn’t injured.

An investigation into the officer-involved shooting by Pennsylvania State Police at Corry and the Crawford County District Attorney’s Office found no wrongdoing by Titusville police.

The finding was based on Birchard putting the SUV in reverse and speeding back toward two Titusville officers before making a U-turn, according to the investigation. Titusville police got in front of the SUV and had stopped it momentarily along Route 8 near Bog Hollow Road with one officer getting out of the patrol car and walking back toward the SUV when Birchard began a high-speed reverse toward police.

The officer-involved shooting investigation found the officer was justified in firing on Birchard. The Titusville officer who fired resigned from the department March 11 after an internal Titusville Police Department investigation found the officer violated department procedures and protocols.

Birchard remains lodged in the Crawford County jail in Saegertown in lieu of a total of $105,000 bond, awaiting sentencing. 

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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