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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Monday - February 2, 2004

GREENVILLE - United States Attorney Frank D. Whitney announced that JAMES EDWARD LEONARD, 55, of Plymouth, N. C., pled guilty in federal court in Greenville on Monday, February 2, 2004, to conspiring to distribute and possess with the intent to distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine. The defendant was charged in a one-count Criminal Information filed on January 15, 2004, and entered his guilty plea pursuant to a plea agreement with the United States Attorney's Office.

U. S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard accepted the plea and scheduled sentencing for June 7, 2004, in Greenville. LEONARD faces a mandatory minimum sentence of five years imprisonment without parole. He could receive a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison, a fine of $2,000,000.00, and a supervised release term of four years.

At the time of the offense in the summer of 2003, LEONARD was the Chief Deputy Sheriff in Washington County, N. C. According to information presented to the Court during his plea hearing, LEONARD conspired with Albert Jean Stanley, now deceased, to purchase and distribute two kilograms of cocaine. The source of the cocaine was in fact a confidential informant. Prior to setting up the transaction, LEONARD accepted money to provide license tag information and criminal history information to the informant. LEONARD and Stanley also accepted money from the informant to protect illegal drug shipments from detection by other law enforcement officers. LEONARD was arrested on September 11, 2003, in Beaufort County, after he and Stanley took possession of the cocaine. He was immediately fired from his position with the Washington County Sheriff's Department. Although LEONARD was released on bond at the time of his arrest, Judge Howard ordered that he be taken into custody at the conclusion of his plea hearing.

Investigation of the case was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U. S. Attorney John H. Bennett of the Greenville branch office is handling the case for the government.

News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney's web page at www.usdoj.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.

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