Drug dealer pleads guilty to gun charges

Published 3:05 pm Thursday, September 5, 2019

By Joshua Stueve


A Franklin man pleaded guilty on Wednesday to possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime and being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

According to information before the court, Edward Andre Leonard Jr., 30, is an armed, drug-dealing Franklin gang member. His brother’s gang-related murder in December 2018 started a war between the local Bloods and Crips sets. Leonard participated in at least two retaliatory shootings of local Crips members, and law enforcement recovered his spent shell casings from one of the shooting scenes. While police were executing a warrant for his residence based on the shooting investigation, they recovered several baggies of cocaine and marijuana that were packaged for distribution, a handgun, thousands of rounds of rifle ammunition, spent shell casings tied to one of the retaliatory shootings, and a bullet-proof vest.

Leonard faces a mandatory minimum of five years and a maximum of life in prison when sentenced on Dec. 12. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods, which is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts. PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

Making the announcement after U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert J. Krask accepted the plea were U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia G. Zachary Terwilliger; Deputy Chief of the City of Franklin Police Robert Porti; Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ Washington Field Division Ashan M. Benedict; Assistant Special Agent in Charge of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations Norfolk Michael K. Lamonea. Assistant U.S. Attorney William B. Jackson is prosecuting the case.

JOSHUA STUEVE is director of communications for the Dept. of Justice, Eastern District of Virginia. Contact him at joshua.stueve@usdoj.gov.