Police pass affidavit against mayor to county prosecutor|[3/25/05]

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 25, 2005

An affidavit accusing Mayor Laurence Leyens of verbal assault will be forwarded to Warren County’s prosecuting attorney to avoid any conflict of interest, officials said today.

The complaint was filed Wednesday by North Ward Alderman hopeful Rodney Dillamar after a heated debate between the two. Leyens is seeking re-election to a second term as mayor.

The argument took place downtown and was captured on tape by a WLBT-TV crew as it escalated to personal attacks and ended with Dillamar claiming he was threatened by Leyens and city employee Malcolm Carson, also named in an assault affidavit signed by Dillamar.

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It will be up to county officials to decide if they want to prosecute, said Police Chief Tommy Moffett.

“We feel that the facts will speak for themselves, but to avoid any appearance of impropriety I have requested that it be referred to the county prosecutor to go through the county system,” Moffett said. Leyens said he agreed with the move.

The city prosecutor and and municipal judges are appointed by the city board. County Prosecutor Ricky Johnson is elected by voters countywide.

No physical contact occurred, but under state law a criminal assault can be verbal if words place a person in imminent fear of physical harm.

“There was no threat whatsoever, but they are using the (legal) system for political gain,” Leyens said. “I feel very naive. I walked right into this setup.”

Dillamar said this morning that the city is playing politics by giving the complaint over to the county and that it should be handled in municipal court.

“Chief Moffett should have handled that report like he handles every other report,” Dillamar said.

Moffett said there was nothing political in the decision to ask the county prosecutor to look at the case.

“If I wanted to play politics, the thing would have been for me to do nothing with it, but the appropriate thing for me to do is to give it to someone neutral, outside the city, to make the decision,” Moffett said.

Dillamar said Leyens told him, “You’re going to pay for this,” at one point during the argument.

That statement was also attributed to Leyens by WLBT, but Leyens says he has acquired a copy of the interview and that he never said it.

“I didn’t say it and it’s not on the tape, contrary to what was reported,” Leyens said.

Any person may file an affidavit in a court with jurisdiction accusing another person of a crime. Police procedures here are to investigate affidavits and inform prosecutors of their findings. “Prosecutorial discretion” is then used to decide whether to pursue the case in court, based on whether it appears a crime has occurred and proof is available.

There was no indication when Johnson might act.