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Cabarrus County District Attorney Roxann L. Vaneekhoven: Drop charges against 19 yr old Afdal Leach

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Afdal Leach was arrested August 6, 2012 after asking a motorist to call police to assist him in getting home after getting lost in Kannapolis, NC while attempting to locate a pawnshop on his bicycle. Mr. Leach who is a 19 yr. old black male who has never been in trouble with the law would end up being charged with possessing a weapon of mass destruction (a tennis ball used to keep matches), carrying a concealed weapon (custom knives he made which he wanted to pawn), and resisting arrest.

I believe that this is either a big misunderstanding or a case of law enforcement and prosecutors attempting to make a show out of what should only be if anything, a misdemeanor case. Only the prosecution can answer this question definitively.

Afdal Leach has a clean record and his family is new to the Kannapolis, NC area and have lived there less than a year. In the community they lived in prior, he was known as a young man who helped his community by participating in various community projects including helping to build a playground for children and assisting the elderly by helping to deliver meals. Afdal Leach is also an aspiring inventor, built a stove that he uses to do metal working (blacksmith), and among the things he created was the custom made knives he had in his backpack and two he taped to the frame of his bicycle that he was going to pawn before becoming lost, asking for help but eventually arrested.

His family is experiencing financial hardship like many families in the United States and Afdal Leach wanted to surprise them with the proceeds he hoped to obtain from pawning his knives among other personal items. After becoming lost, he began to cramp in his legs and was sitting on the ground when a passing motorist asked if he needed assistance. Afdal Leach asked the motorist to call the authorities to help him get home. EMS was first to arrive on the scene followed by police officers. It is believed that the officers became concerned after seeing the two knives taped to the bicycle frame and moved to arrest the young man. Perhaps Afdal Leach, who was homeschooled and never interacted with police officers before, reacted in a way to make the officers think he was threat. He would go into a shell after being treated as a criminal suspect when he asked the motorist to call police to assist him in getting home. This traumatic event should never have occured.

Cabarrus County NAACP President Amos MCClorey told Afdal’s father that a couple of the responding officers simply wanted to take Afdal Leach to his residence but were overruled by a supervisor who wanted to charge him with the charges previously listed.

There are quite a few websites that suggest alternative uses for an old tennis ball and one suggestion is to cut a slit into the ball to hold various small items and it is in this manner that Afdal Leach was using the tennis ball in his possession. As stated, the tennis ball held matches he used for his stove and the opening was closed with electrical tape. Yet the local media in that area described the tennis ball holding matches as an incendiary device and reported that the bomb squad was called out to “dispose” of the device safely. A tennis ball with matches in it does not appear to fit the description of a Weapon of Mass Destruction and perhaps that is why the FBI nor Homeland Security was called and are not involved in the case.

According to NC Statute § 14‑288.8 section c,

The term "weapon of mass death and destruction" includes:

(1)       Any explosive or incendiary:

a.         Bomb; or

b.         Grenade; or

c.         Rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces; or

d.         Missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one‑quarter ounce; or

e.         Mine; or

f.          Device similar to any of the devices described above; or

(2)        Any type of weapon (other than a shotgun or a shotgun shell of a type particularly suitable for sporting purposes) which will, or which may be readily converted to, expel a projectile by the action of an explosive or other propellant, and which has any barrel with a bore of more than one‑half inch in diameter; or

(3)        Any firearm capable of fully automatic fire, any shotgun with a barrel or barrels of less than 18 inches in length or an overall length of less than 26 inches, any rifle with a barrel or barrels of less than 16 inches in length or an overall length of less than 26 inches, any muffler or silencer for any firearm, whether or not such firearm is included within this definition. For the purposes of this section, rifle is defined as a weapon designed or redesigned, made or remade, and intended to be fired from the shoulder; or

(4)        Any combination of parts either designed or intended for use in converting any device into any weapon described above and from which a weapon of mass death and destruction may readily be assembled.

The term "weapon of mass death and destruction" does not include any device which is neither designed nor redesigned for use as a weapon;.

Pertaining to the “Carrying Concealed Weapons” charge, technically Afdal Leach could be considered in violation by carrying custom made knives in his backpack, the other two knives were taped to his bicycle frame were in the open for anyone to see. Not knowing that he was on his way to pawn the custom made knives one might view him suspiciously. However, the law also allows for intent as a defense to this misdemeanor charge. Afdal Leach maintains his intent was to pawn the knives to obtain funds to help his family pay household bills.

It does not serve the interest of justice to portray this young man as some sort of homegrown terrorist and to ruin his life because of a misunderstanding. It would not serve the interest of the Cabarrus County to waste taxpayers’ funds on prosecuting this young man who has never before been in trouble or in violation of the law. North Carolina prisons are already overcrowded and these kinds of prosecutions are burden to a state facing budegtary problems.

The Cabarrus County public defender office has not adequately defended this young man with one attorney asking to be released from the case under questionable circumstances. Afdal Leach’s current public defender John Nance has yet to have one meeting or telephone conversation with his client or his parents although he is scheduled for trial November 5, 2012. Afdal Leach was arrested on or about August 6, 2012 and it seems unusual for someone to go to trial in such a short period without having even met with his public defender. This kind of behavior destroys the public trust in elected officials and other public servants. Lend your voice in defense of this young man.

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