Criminal Justice

Lawyer Drove 50-Plus Miles with Surrendering Suspect in Auburn Pool Party Shooting


Montgomery lawyer Susan James had a long drive with Auburn shooting suspect Desmonte Leonard on Tuesday evening.

James picked up the fugitive after negotiating his surrender, driving him more than 50 miles to the federal courthouse in Montgomery, where he surrendered to U.S. marshals, report the Opelika-Auburn News and the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.

The drive with Leonard was “fairly stressful because he was on every billboard” in the area, James told the Ledger-Enquirer. The stories describe James as a prominent lawyer who has represented former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. James’ son, an investigator, accompanied her.

Leonard’s family had contacted James on Tuesday and asked her to negotiate a surrender. James told the Ledger-Enquirer that Leonard would have turned himself in earlier, but he feared it would be unsafe. “Not that law enforcement would have taken any cheap shots or anything like that,” she added, “but just there’s a lot of public attention here, and you don’t want somebody randomly to try to take him out because of what’s gone on.”

Leonard is accused of killing three men, including two former Auburn University football players, on Saturday at a pool party near campus. James said she has not been officially retained to represent Leonard. He views the deaths as “a tragic event,” she told the Ledger-Enquirer. “There are a lot of other facts,” she said. “He’s entitled to a good defense, and he needs one.”

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