A West Monroe man whose brother is the chief judge at Fourth Judicial District Court has received a few years of probation at worst for drug dealing offenses since 2015.
Since 2007, most of the numerous criminal charges against Mark Edward Leehy, 52, of West Monroe, were dismissed. Leehy has a record of several drug dealing arrests in Ouachita Parish, extending to the 1980s. Leehy’s brother is Judge Scott Leehy, who was elected to the bench in 2006.
Most recently, Mark Leehy was unable to have a possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute charge adjudicated through the Fourth Judicial District Court’s drug court program.
Though the state Supreme Court appointed an ad hoc judge earlier this year to preside over a handful of drug offense cases involving Leehy, three of Leehy’s cases were placed on the Sept. 27 docket before a different judge at adult drug court.
In Louisiana, adult drug court allows clients facing criminal charges arising from their drug addiction to undergo treatment under the supervision of a judge, who may sanction the participants for poor performance in the drug court program. Drug court is an alternative to incarceration.
Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Sharon Marchman, who presides over adult drug court, did not take any action on Leehy’s three cases last week. She pointed out an ad hoc judge had been appointed, according to court minutes.
Court minutes show Marchman also pointed out there was no en banc, or full court, recusal order in a case stemming from Leehy’s arrest in May for possession of meth with intent to distribute. The 11 judges at the district court, including Scott Leehy, previously recused through individual recusal orders or en banc recusal orders in three other cases against Leehy since July 2015.
During the drug court hearing last week, Marchman filed an individual order recusing herself from handling the case stemming from Leehy’s arrest in May.
“The Court recused itself in this matter, 18CR3054 stating the absence of an En Banc,” stated the court minutes from the Sept. 27 hearing before Marchman. “Order of recusal signed and filed.”
The court minutes indicated Fourth Judicial District Attorney Steve Tew’s office took no action during last week’s hearing. According to the court minutes, Leehy’s case was on the drug court docket “in error.” Remarks made to The Ouachita Citizen by Assistant District Attorney Fred McGaha on Monday indicated the case did not end up on the drug court docket by mistake.
In Tew’s office, McGaha recapped the events of the Sept. 27 hearing, including Marchman’s refusal to handle the case. Marchman said an ad hoc judge needed to handle the matter, according to McGaha.
“If that’s the case, then drug court is out,” said McGaha, as though drug court was an option for Leehy’s possession with intent charge. “I don’t think you can get an ad hoc judge for drug court.”
“I’ll leave it up to Amado to do what he needs,” McGaha added, referring to Leehy’s attorney, Amado Leija, of Monroe.
In spite of other past charges against Leehy for possession of meth with intent to distribute, court records indicated Leehy has undergone treatment before. He has been arrested on drug-related charges on four separate occasions since July 2015.
“Amado said, ‘What about treatment?’ but we tried treatment last time and it didn’t work,” McGaha said.
A review of Leehy’s criminal record reveals drug charges from as recently as this year as well as drug charges in the 1980s. In 1984, he was arrested for possession of drug paraphernalia. In 1989, Leehy was arrested for possession of marijuana and methamphetamine with intent to distribute, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, conspiracy to distribute marijuana, and conspiracy to distribute meth among other charges, according to court records.
In 2007 and 2011, Leehy was arrested on domestic abuse-related charges. In one of the two cases involving alleged domestic abuse, Leehy mentioned his connection to Scott Leehy, the judge. Then-District Attorney Jerry Jones’ office dismissed the charges. In the other case, all charges were dropped except disturbing the peace, which Leehy pleaded guilty to under a deal offering him expungement of the conviction.
After two arrests on separate occasions for possession of meth, Leehy’s cooperation with the Ouachita Parish Metro Narcotics Unit was noted in officers’ reports, including his provision of the names of area meth distributors. In one instance where drugs were found in Leehy’s possession, Leehy answered Metro Narcotics agents’ questions and was released from custody instead of being booked at the parish prison on the charges.
In three different cases involving numerous criminal charges against Leehy, he ultimately received only three years supervised probation as part of a plea deal for all three cases. More than 15 charges against Leehy in those three cases were dropped, including charges with mandatory sentences of at least one year in prison.
JUDGES ON CASES DESPITE RECUSAL?
Meanwhile, a handful of Fourth Judicial District Court judges — including judges Danny Ellender, Larry Jefferson and Stephens Winters — presided over court hearings involving Leehy, in spite of those three judges previously signing court orders recusing themselves from the cases, court minutes show.
The 11 judges at the district court recused themselves through recusal orders in Leehy’s cases in October 2015, December 2015, and March 2016, but the state Supreme Court did not appoint Judge Ronald “Ron” L. Lewellyan, a retired judge from Columbia, to serve as an ad hoc judge until March 2016. Supreme Court Justice Marcus Clark, who previously served as a judge at Fourth Judicial District Court, signed the March 9, 2016 order appointing Lewellyan. Lewellyan died in November 2017.
At that time of his appointment, the Supreme Court’s order directed Lewellyan only to preside over one case involving Leehy, though court records show Lewellyan presided over three of Leehy’s cases — the three which concluded with charges dropped and a sentence of three years probation.
Court minutes indicated Ellender, Winters and Jefferson presided over court hearings involving Leehy’s three cases in spite of their previous recusals. Some of the hearings took place after the Supreme Court appointed Lewellyan as an ad hoc judge.
According to the Supreme Court, a judge has no power to act in a case after they have recused.
McGaha, the assistant district attorney, and Assistant District Attorney Geary Aycock told The Ouachita Citizen it was possible the court minutes were incorrect or incomplete. McGaha and Aycock were the assistant district attorneys assigned to the Leehy cases.
“That’s incorrect,” McGaha said. “Those judges didn’t do anything on these cases. Ronald Lewellyan handled every stage of these procedures.”
“Lewellyan did everything,” he added.
Aycock said the clerks who prepared the court minutes only made initial entries but did not add to the minutes as the court proceeding continued. According to Aycock, a local judge may begin the hearing because the proceeding will take place in that judge’s courtroom, only to later swap places with the ad hoc judge.
“The minute clerks don’t go back in and say when judges swapped,” Aycock said. “They only make initial entries.”
In spite of Aycock’s explanation, court minutes distinguish hearings where only one judge was present compared to those where a local judge was present with Lewellyan. For example, a set of court minutes for a June 12, 2017 hearing in Courtroom 9 indicated that both Winters and Lewellyan were present. A set of court minutes for a Nov. 4, 2016 hearing in Courtroom 1 indicated only Jefferson was present, though Jefferson had previously recused.
The Ouachita Citizen published a number of the court minutes on its website, www.ouachitacitizen.com
Lewellyan was not appointed as an ad hoc judge until March 2016, more than four months after the 11 judges signed the first en banc recusal order.
LEEHY MENTIONS RELATION TO JUDGE
Ouachita Parish sheriff’s deputies arrested Leehy for violation of protective order, domestic abuse battery, and resisting an officer on Nov. 29, 2007. Leehy slapped his wife, Tracie, in the face and kicked her, according to the arrest report.
While sheriff’s Cpl. Robert M. Young Jr. was completing a pat down search of Leehy, Leehy’s mother drove up and asked what was going on, according to Young’s report.
“I advised her I could not speak to her right this moment and to step away from the situation,” stated Young’s report. “Arrestee, Mark Leehy, was secured in my Unit #149 and then attempted to speak to Mrs. Leehy who advised I was rude to her and she would not speak to me now, she was going to report me; and Mrs. Leehy departed the area.”
After Leehy’s mother left, Leehy demanded to know the deputy’s name.
“Note (arrestee) Mark Leehy made the statement he would be sure and mention my name to his brother, Judge Leehy,” stated sheriff’s Cpl. Robert M. Young Jr.’s arrest report.
The district attorney’s office filed a bill of information, including the three charges, against Leehy on Jan. 9, 2008. At that time, Leehy appeared in court before Charles A. Traylor, judge pro-tem. Leehy’s arraignment was rescheduled and later rescheduled again. His attorney was Monroe attorney Amado Leija. Leehy’s case was reset for July 29, 2008, but the district attorney’s office ultimately dismissed the charges, citing the district attorney’s discretion.
DOMESTIC TROUBLES CONTINUE
Leehy’s wife reported additional domestic trouble in 2011, when Ouachita Parish sheriff’s deputies arrested Leehy for false imprisonment. According to the Aug. 9, 2011 arrest report, Leehy claimed his wife had pushed him down. He called the Sheriff’s Office.
“He stated he had a few alcoholic drinks during the afternoon but he did not describe what type,” stated the sheriff’s deputy Randall Hutson’s report. “He stated he and Tracie have been having marital problems for the past few months. He stated she was going to go to his job and say that he had been with another man. He stated this is what the altercation stemmed from.”
Leehy’s wife provided a different account, claiming she had tried to leave the residence though Leehy repeatedly blocked her from leaving. The couple’s 19-year-old son confirmed her account.
CHARGES DROPPED; EXPUNGEMENT OFFERED
The district attorney’s office filed a bill of information on Oct. 4, 2011, charging Leehy with resisting an officer, false imprisonment, disturbing the peace through loud and profane behavior, and simple assault. The simple assault charge against Leehy stemmed from his actions resisting arrest, according to the deputies’ reports.
During a Nov. 30, 2011 hearing before Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Carl Sharp, Leehy’s attorney, Leija, entered a plea of not guilty. In March, another hearing took place before Sharp and Lewellyan, who was acting as a pro-tem judge, according to court minutes. Though he served as a pro tem judge at the hearing, Lewellyan had not been appointed as an ad hoc judge, court records show.
At that time, Leehy withdrew the formerly entered plea of not guilty and pleaded guilty to one count of disturbing the peace through loud and profane behavior. The charges for false imprisonment, resisting an officer, and simple assault were dropped.
“Defendant was by the Court sentenced to pay a fine of $200.00 and court costs or in default 20 days,” stated the court minutes. “Counts 1, 2, and 4 were dismissed. Article 894 was invoked.”
Under Article 894 of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure, a suspect entering a guilty plea to a misdemeanor is allowed the opportunity to have their conviction expunged, if they complete probation and pay all fines and court costs.
Leehy was ordered to show proof of payment of the fine and court costs during a May 1, 2012 hearing. That did not happen. Instead, the case was reset, and the matter was rescheduled for June 12, 2012 before Fourth Judicial District Court Judge Fred Amman III.
Based on The Ouachita Citizen’s review of court records, Leehy did not complete the terms of the plea agreement reached on March 20, 2012, because instead of simply paying the fine and court costs, he received a new sentence imposing a stay in prison.
During the June 12, 2012 hearing before Amman, the court sentenced Leehy to serve 90 days in prison and to pay a $200 fine on the disturbing the peace conviction, according to court minutes. Ultimately, Leehy was not required to spend a day in prison, because the court suspended the execution of the jail sentence and placed Leehy on unsupervised probation for one year, according to the court minutes. The other charges were dismissed.
Though a new sentence was imposed on Leehy during the June 2012 hearing, Leehy’s Aug. 9, 2011 arrest and final conviction for disturbing the peace did not appear on a Louisiana Civil and Criminal Information Exchange, or LACCIE, record printout retrieved May 30 by Nick Oglesby, a West Monroe police officer. On Oglesby’s LACCIE printout, Leehy’s rap sheet — which is arranged in chronological order — skips from his arrest on Nov. 29, 2007 to his Aug. 31, 2015 arrest. None of the charges from his Aug. 9, 2011 arrest are listed on the LACCIE report.
JUDGE LEEHY HAS CASE REASSIGNED TO OTHER JUDGE
More than three years later, Leehy was charged on suspicion of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute through an arrest warrant. Sheriff’s deputy Adam Arrant’s July 30, 2015 warrant was based on a June 16, 2015 stop of Leehy’s automobile for a traffic violation.
Though authorities found drugs in Leehy’s possession, they released Leehy from custody pending a further investigation.
After stopping Leehy’s automobile, deputies observed a glass pipe commonly used for smoking drugs as well as a plastic bag containing syringes. A search of Leehy’s automobile yielded two plastic bags containing clear crystal-like shards, suspected to be meth.
Leehy was questioned about the drug at the Ouachita Parish Metro Narcotics Unit’s offices.
“Once at Metro, Mark admitted to purchasing one quarter ounce of methamphetamine on the south side of Monroe,” stated the warrant. “Mark stated he purchased the meth for personal use and (resale). Mark said the small plastic bags are what he uses to package the meth he sells to other people. Mark was released at this time pending a further investigation.”
Judge Scott Leehy filed an order of recusal on Aug. 19, 2015, because his brother’s case had been randomly assigned to his court division. Scott Leehy’s recusal order requested a random allotment of his brother’s case to another judge at the district court.
Court records show the case was randomly reassigned from Scott Leehy to Ellender.
The district attorney’s office filed a bill of information against Leehy on Oct. 5, 2015, charging him with possession of methamphetamine and possession of drug paraphernalia. McGaha, the assistant district attorney, signed the bill.
Though Leehy was originally arrested on a warrant for possession of meth with intent to distribute, the district attorney’s bill of information amended the charge to a lesser charge of meth possession only. McGaha signed the decline slip.
FULL COURT RECUSES; LEEHY RETURNS TO JUDGE’S COURT
On Oct. 29, 2015, the other 10 judges at Fourth Judicial District Court signed an en banc recusal order, recusing all district court judges from Leehy’s case, because of the suspect’s relation to Scott Leehy.
In spite of the en banc recusal, Leehy returned to Ellender’s courtroom on several more occasions through the end of 2015, according to court minutes. Lewellyan’s presence was not indicated in the court minutes.
Leehy’s arraignment was reset for Dec. 10, 2015, but that hearing was not held. Instead, Leehy was arrested that day on new charges. Deputies assigned to the sheriff’s street crimes unit, or Special Crimes Apprehension Team (SCAT), arrested Leehy for possession of a gun in the presence of drugs (marijuana) on Dec. 10, 2015 after stopping Leehy’s automobile for a traffic violation. Leehy claimed ownership of the gun but denied knowledge of the marijuana.
The district attorney’s office filed a bill of information, charging Leehy with possession of marijuana, possession of a firearm in the presence of drugs, driving with a suspended driver’s license, and improper lane usage, all stemming from Leehy’s Dec. 10, 2015 arrest. McGaha signed the bill of information.
In response to Leehy’s arrest on Dec. 10, 2015, all 11 judges at the district court signed an en banc recusal order on Dec. 23, 2015, recusing themselves from the new case.
When Leehy’s two cases resumed for a Jan. 28, 2016 hearing, Ellender presided over the proceeding, according to court minutes. Before Ellender, Leehy entered a plea of not guilty to possession of meth with intent to distribute, stemming from his earlier arrest in July 2015.
LEEHY ARRESTED AGAIN ON 13 CHARGES
As Leehy’s two drug cases continued to proceed through criminal court, Leehy was arrested again, this time on 13 charges, including a handful of drug possession charges among other criminal offenses.
Louisiana State Police troopers arrested Leehy on March 4, 2016 after stopping his motorcycle for traveling at 73 mph in a 55-mph zone.
“The driver, later identified as Mark Leehy, refused to stop, accelerating to over 110 mph,” stated the State Police Trooper Adam Haneline’s arrest report. Leehy turned on to LA 557 and lost control of the motorcycle, grounding it.”
Leehy informed the trooper he had “speed,” an informal term for meth, in his backpack, according to the arrest report. The trooper found $3,497 in cash, a Gerber automatic knife, a debit card belonging to someone else, a Ruger LC380, four glass pipes, five hypodermic needles, a digital scale, eight plastic bags containing 42.4 grams of meth, a plastic bag containing marijuana, two Xanax pills, one Valium pill, 35.5 Alprazolam pills, and three Suboxone strips.
AD HOC JUDGE APPOINTED
In response to yet another arrest of Leehy, all 11 judges at the district court signed an en banc recusal order on March 7, 2016, recusing themselves from the most recent Leehy case.
In its appointment order, the Supreme Court appointed Lewellyan to serve as an ad hoc judge in the case. Clark, the Supreme Court justice, signed the March 9, 2016 order appointing Lewellyan.
In spite of the omission of the other docket numbers for cases involving Leehy in the Supreme Court’s order, Lewellyan appears to also have presided — at times — over the other two Leehy cases from 2015, court records show.
DA DROPS CHARGE REQUIRING MANDATORY YEAR IN PRISON
In March 2016, the district attorney’s filed an amended bill of information changing the July 2015 charges against Leehy, upgrading the possession of meth charge to possession of meth with intent to distribute.
In response to the most recent arrest of Leehy, the district attorney’s office filed a bill of information on March 22, 2016, charging Leehy with 12 counts, including possession of Alprazolam, possession of meth, possession of marijuana, aggravated flight from an officer, illegal possession of stolen things, possession of drug paraphernalia, transactions involving proceeds from drug offenses, possession of a firearm in the presence of drugs, speeding, driving with a suspended driver’s license, careless operation, and illegal carrying of a weapon. McGaha signed the bill of information.
McGaha also signed the decline slip, declining to prosecute Leehy for possession of a firearm by a person convicted of domestic abuse battery. That offense carries a mandatory prison sentence “with or without hard labor for not less than one year nor more than five years” as well as a fine of at least $500.
Court minutes for a March 22, 2016 hearing — after Lewellyan’s appointment as ad hoc judge — indicated Leehy appeared in court before Ellender. Lewellyan’s presence was not reflected in the court minutes. Court records contain similar court hearing minutes where Ellender was noted as present and Lewellyan was not mentioned, from April 2016 to May 2016.
In light of the amended bill of information in the July 2015 case, Leehy entered a plea of not guilty to possession of meth with intent to distribute.
At the same hearing, Leehy also entered a plea of not guilty to marijuana possession, possession of gun in presence of drugs, driving with a suspended license, and improper lane usage, stemming from his Dec. 10, 2015 arrest.
Leehy appeared in court on Nov. 4, 2016 for a 72-hour hearing on his March 2016 charges before Jefferson, the district court judge. The court minutes did not reflect Lewellyan’s presence at the hearing. Three days later, Lewellyan signed a Nov. 7, 2016 order, authorizing Leehy’s release from prison and transportation to a rehabilitation program.
In the case involving his December 2015 arrest, Leehy appeared in court on Feb. 13, 2017 before Winters. Court minutes from that hearing did not reflect Lewellyan’s presence in court. The minutes indicated Winters made some kind of unspecified disclosure. Court minutes indicate Winters presided over other hearings in 2017, without Lewellyan.
LEEHY GETS THREE YEARS PROBATION; MORE CHARGES DROPPED
The three cases involving Leehy were resolved during the July 20, 2017 hearing.
At that time, Leehy pleaded guilty to possession of meth stemming from his July 2015 arrest, but the drug paraphernalia possession charge was dismissed. Facing the 12 counts stemming from his March 2016 arrest, Leehy pleaded guilty to one count of possession of meth. The other 11 counts were dismissed.
He was sentenced to three years in prison at hard labor and ordered to pay a $500 fine and court costs, though the execution of his hard labor sentence was deferred and he was placed on three years supervised probation. He was given credit for time served from Nov. 9, 2016 through June 12, 2017.
Leehy’s guilty plea document indicated his sentence and probation were the same in both the July 2015 and March 2016 cases. Both sentences and probation also were set to run concurrently, or at the same time, instead of consecutively.
Court minutes from that hearing indicated the four charges stemming from Leehy’s December 2015 arrest also were dismissed.
Aycock, an Assistant District Attorney, represented the district attorney’s office that day in court.
LEEHY ARRESTED FOR DEALING DRUGS, AGAIN
Though on probation, Leehy became a suspect in a Sheriff’s Office investigation, resulting in his arrest on drug dealing charges earlier this year.
Court records indicated Leehy became the subject of surveillance after Judge Amman signed a search warrant on May 9 for Leehy’s residence. According to the search warrant, sheriff’s deputy Megan Russell said she was informed by a cooperating witness that Leehy was “supplying large amounts of methamphetamine to Ouachita Parish.” Russell performed surveillance of Leehy’s home on May 7 and stopped the cooperating witness after leaving Leehy’s home. The cooperating witness claimed he was buying meth from Leehy at Leehy’s home.
“In a subsequent interview, (the cooperating witness) stated he is the mid-level drug dealer,” stated Russell’s search warrant. “(The cooperating witness) stated his source of supply is Mark Leehy. (The cooperating witness) stated Leehy has a source of supply somewhere in Richland Parish. (The cooperating witness) stated Leehy goes to Rayville every night or every other night to purchase anywhere from 4 to 8 oz of methamphetamine and brings it back to Ouachita Parish for redistribution.”
The vehicle Leehy used to drive to Rayville was registered to his roommate, Donald Dulaney, according to Russell’s search warrant.
Later, Metro Narcotics Unit agents arrested Leehy on suspicion of possession of meth with intent to distribute after stopping a vehicle carrying him. Leehy was found to have a drug ledger in his possession
A black bag containing two ounces of meth was found in the glovebox as well as some marijuana. Leehy claimed ownership of the drugs.
A supplemental report on Leehy’s arrest by Metro Narcotics Unit Det. Kwasic Heckard indicated 58 grams of meth and two grams of marijuana were seized.
During questioning, Leehy claimed he had just returned from Rayville where he bought five ounces of meth for $2,100.
“Leehy said he was out delivering the methamphetamine to his different drug associates,” stated Heckard’s report. “Leehy advised the drug ledger was to keep up with who owed him cash, due to him fronting most (of) the methamphetamine (fronting — give it to them now and they pay later).”
Leehy told Metro Narcotics he was “willing to assist MNU in investigations if possible.”
“Let it be known that during the interview with Leehy, he provided several names and phone numbers from his black Samsung Smartphone,” stated Heckard’s report. “These numbers were his methamphetamine wholesale distributors.”
Ellender signed a search warrant for Leehy’s cellphone, in light of his “methamphetamine dealer connects,” according to Heckard’s report.
“Please consider this case closed by arrest,” stated Heckard’s report.
NO EN BANC RECUSAL
No en banc recusal order was filed into the record for the case involving Leehy’s most recent arrest in May, but the Supreme Court appointed an ad hoc judge to take over the case.
The Supreme Court appointed retired Judge F. Rae Swent, of Alexandria, to serve as an ad hoc judge on three of Leehy’s cases, with directives to handle any unfinished business in the other two cases involving Leehy’s arrests in July 2015 and March 2016. Clark, the Supreme Court justice, signed the order.
During an Aug. 1 hearing before Swent, the district attorney’s office filed a bill of information, charging Leehy with possession of meth with intent to distribute. Aycock signed the bill as well as the decline slip, declining to prosecute Leehy for possession of marijuana.
Leehy entered a plea of not guilty.