FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 12, 2012
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North Carolina Man Convicted of Assault
Against Ambassador at Gabonese Embassy
- Defendant Was Arrested After Demonstration Turned Violent -
WASHINGTON - Leon Obame, 45, of Raleigh, N.C., has been found guilty by a jury of assaulting the ambassador of Gabon during a demonstration last year at the Gabonese Embassy, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced today.
Obame has been in custody since his arrest Dec. 9, 2011 during the demonstration at the Gabonese Embassy. He was found guilty on Oct. 11, 2012 of a charge of assault on a foreign official. The verdict followed a trial in the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia. Obame faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison for the crime.
In addition to the assault charge, Obame was charged with two counts each of arson and damage to property occupied by a foreign government for a pair of fires in 2009 at the embassy. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on those charges. The Honorable Senior Judge Gladys Kessler, who presided at the trial, did not schedule a sentencing date for the assault charge. She scheduled a status hearing in the case for Oct. 23, 2012.
Obame was accused of setting one fire on Aug. 30, 2009 at the embassy, which is in the 2000 block of 20th Street NW. He allegedly set a second fire on Dec. 25, 2009. No one was injured in either of the blazes. Obame pled not guilty to all of the charges filed against him.
The assault took place on Dec. 9, 2011 at the embassy’s temporary location, in the 1600 block of Connecticut Avenue NW. That morning, according to the government’s evidence, Obame punched the ambassador, knocking him to the ground.
“Assaulting a foreign government official is a serious crime,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “This sort of conduct will not be tolerated and those who engage in these kinds of attacks will be held fully accountable.”
In announcing the verdict, U.S. Attorney Machen commended the efforts of those who investigated the case from the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, the Washington Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Diplomatic Security Service. He also acknowledged the efforts of those who worked on the case from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegal Specialists Selena Zuhoski, Devron Elliott, and Elizabeth Barns, Legal Assistant Donice Adams, and Litigation Technology Specialist Thomas Royal. Finally, he thanked Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frederick W. Yette and Patrick Martin, who are prosecuting the case.