Evidence challenged in Richmond Hill suspect murder-for-hire plot

Mark Leonard walks into a Marion County courtroom. (WISH Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) A suspect in the 2012 south side explosion wants a judge to throw out potential evidence in an alleged murder-for-hire plot from behind bars. Prosecutors said Tuesday there is no legal support for the request.

Monserrate Shirley, Mark Leonard and Bob Leonard, Jr. each face nearly 50 charges in connection to the deadly 2012 blast at Richmond Hill.

Mark Leonard also faces a conspiracy to commit murder charge for attempting to have a witness in the case killed from behind bars.

Prosecutors say Leonard attempted to hire an undercover Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent, who was posing as a hit man. That agent had “several recorded telephone conversations with Leonard about having the witness killed, how to do it, payment therefore and how it would vindicate Leonard,” according to court documents.

In late June, Leonard’s attorneys filed a motion asking a judge to declare any statements made during conversations with the agent inadmissible in court.

“Defendant moves to suppress the statements made by the defendant that ultimately led to his being charged with conspiracy to commit murder,” court documents read. “Defendant’s argument is that the statements violated the defendant’s right to counsel under [the Indiana constitution], which guarantees the right to counsel. Defendant requests that these statements be excluded [as] they are inexplicably intertwined [with the explosion case] and therefore his appointed counsel for the instant case should have been notified.”

Leonard’s attorneys also allege that the Marion County Jail inmate alleged to have connected Leonard with the undercover ATF agent was working as an “agent of the State.”

In a response filed on Friday, prosecutors object to that assertion, saying law enforcement “was unaware of the conversations [between Leonard and the inmate, prior to the involvement of the ATF agent], and therefore had not previously acquiesced in them.”

The two “were merely prisoners conversing in the Marion County Jail,” prosecutors continue in the response.

Prosecutors also argue that Leonard’s right to an attorney didn’t extend in that case at that time, because the cases weren’t directly linked.

“When a defendant is already facing charges in a pending prosecution, the right to counsel only attaches to subsequent activities if the relationship between the charged activity and the uncharged activity is inextricably intertwined. Even the most cursory view of the parameters…makes it clear that the instant case and the conspiracy to commit murder case are not inextricably intertwined,” prosecutors told the judge.

The statements Leonard allegedly made to the ATF agent serve as key evidence in the conspiracy case.

Judge Sheila Carlisle is now charged with weighing their admission at trial.

She denied a motion Tuesday from prosecutors to amend three arson counts against the three defendants, by adding the names of several victims.

Carlisle agreed in late July to move Mark Leonard’s case outside Marion County, after prosecutors dropped their objection to his change of venue request.

A decision on where and when it will be held is expected by the end of the month.

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