Schenectady County

Man held in fatal Schenectady fire probe seeking release

A man charged with lying about important details related to the investigation of a 2013 fire that ki
Edward Leon, 41,  is led into the Federal Courthouse in Albany on Nov. 10, 2014, after being charged with perjury.
Edward Leon, 41, is led into the Federal Courthouse in Albany on Nov. 10, 2014, after being charged with perjury.

A man charged with lying about important details related to the investigation of a 2013 fire that killed four people has filed a handwritten letter asking a judge for a new attorney and to dismiss his case.

Edward Leon, 42, of St. Johnsville, has been in custody without bail since his November 2014 arrest on a federal indictment charging him with two counts of lying to a grand jury investigating the Hulett Street fire.

He allegedly lied about his whereabouts the morning of the fire and about his control of a phone number that sent threatening text messages to the adult victim of the blaze. He is not charged in the actual fire.

In his letter to the court, Leon makes allegations against investigators, prosecutors and his attorney. He contends investigators threatened him last year, that prosecutors are violating his rights and that his attorney has since been working against him.

The letter was filed Friday. A follow-up motion form was filed Tuesday with similar allegations.

The court acknowledged the filings Tuesday and referred them to a judge “for disposition.” It was unclear if a formal court appearance or hearing would be scheduled.

Leon, through his attorney, accepted detention without a hearing in November. He also reserved the right to have a hearing in the future.

Leon contends he has gotten little to no information from his attorney, Timothy Nugent, and the attorney has offered little help. Leon also believes his attorney was working against him.

“I feel that the charges against me should be dismissed because the appointed attorney along with the DA’s office have been violating my rights,” Leon wrote, apparently referring to federal prosecutors as the DA’s office. “I also don’t even know if [there] is an indictment against me or what it even says if there is one. Please Help Me”

Nugent could not be reached for comment.

An indictment charging Leon with perjury was unsealed in November. He is accused of telling the grand jury he essentially went directly from home to work in Amsterdam the morning of the May 2, 2013, fire and didn’t know who was using a number that was texting threatening messages to the adult killed in the fire, David Terry.

Leon was actually on Hamilton Street in Schenectady at 4:19 a.m. the morning of the fire, the indictment alleges. That was just four minutes before the fire was reported.

The indictment also alleges Leon controlled the phone number and used it from April 25 to 29, 2013, to send the threatening messages to Terry.

Killed in the fire at 438 Hulett St. were Terry and his three children, Layah, 3, Michael, 2, and Donavan Duell, 11 months. The only child to survive was then-5-year-old Sa’fyre Terry. She suffered severe burns resulting in a long recovery that continues.

Among his complaints against investigators, Leon alleges they yelled at him and threatened him with a perjury charges in October 2014. The day of his arrest, Leon complains he was held for approximately 10 hours “and all they gave me was water and only a couple of tiny granola bars.”

He also claims the investigators attempted to “bribe” him.

“They were trying to get me to make out a statement against myself in [which] I didn’t because I did not commit the crime they were trying to force on me,” Leon wrote. He didn’t say what investigators were alleging.

Leon was one of two people indicted in November for allegedly lying to the grand jury investigating the fire. Jennica Duell of Schenectady — the mother of the three children killed in the fire and the child injured — was also accused of giving contradictory statements to the panel. She testified in vivid detail that she was with the person who set the fire when the crime was committed. She later testified that what she said in her initial testimony was not true.

The man she accused of setting the blaze, Robert A. Butler, was initially charged with setting the fire. Those charges were dropped nine months later, and Butler was freed.

Duell’s attorney asked for and received a detention hearing in November. The result was she was ordered held and remains in custody.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

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