A Texas man evaded consequences, until he hired a hit man

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Dianne Tramutola-lLawson

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Sep 28, 2023, 10:11:00 AM9/28/23
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From: "Stephanie Clifford for The Marshall Project" <in...@themarshallproject.org>
Sent: Thursday, September 28, 2023 7:47 AM
Subject: A Texas man evaded consequences, until he hired a hit man
 
 
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Most of us, if we went to high school, remember that guy: sporty, backslapping, self-assured. They probably had money, and looks; they went on to be successful enough to have a nice car, a house, some stories to tell at high-school reunions — that guy. For me, that guy was named Leon Jacob, and I honestly didn't expect to think much about him after graduation in 1996. 

But then I heard he'd been convicted of hiring a hit man to arrange a double murder. My initial thought was, My God, I knew Leon as a teenager. My next thought was, Did I really, though?

I wanted to know how Leon got from our prep school to life in prison. I asked former schoolmates, quizzed Leon's past colleagues, and studied trial transcripts. Triangulating interviews, arrest records, lawsuits, court cases, police records — everything down to his credit application at a casino — I assembled a picture of a man who'd sidestepped consequences for years

Outside the relative bubble of the privileged high school that Leon and I went to, most of us learned real-world lessons: You're not great at everything you want to be great at (hello, organic chemistry for me), you don't get endless chances, and your bad decisions have repercussions. As I learned more about Leon, though, I'm not sure he ever had to face the fallout from the havoc he was wreaking. He was Leon; he'd find a way around it. The nation’s criminal justice system allowed him loopholes, and he exploited them.
Leon had money, and used private lawyers to get charges pled down or dismissed. He had connections, providing him multiple chances to rehabilitate his career, even after shocking on-the-job behavior. And when people did work up the nerve to try to stop him, it often made things worse. 

I think of what Annie, Leon's ex-wife, told me about the first time she called the police after years of his physical and emotional abuse. Though there are smart guidelines that police can use to investigate domestic violence allegations, these officers instead questioned Annie with Leon standing next to her. Apparently assured by his statements that everything was OK, they left; Leon's fury increased, exposing Annie to more danger. I wonder what he took away from that encounter, and whether it emboldened him to keep going. And then I wonder what gave Leon that sense of confidence as far back as the '90s. 

Back then, he seemed to think he could get away with a whole lot — and he did.

I'd love to hear what you think of the story; you can reach me through my website.

Stephanie Clifford
 
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