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Last updated 12:18PM ET
March 6, 2021
School official accused of threats wrote Justice Department first
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - A school administrator was no stranger to the U.S. Justice Department when he was arrested for making terrorist threats to a Mobile TV station.

Daniel R. Leonard had written the Justice Department two weeks earlier, asking it to block Alabama's new presidential primary on Feb. 5, 2008. Leonard complained that early voting for the primary could lead to voter fraud.

Leonard's letter is part of the record compiled by the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division for its review of Alabama's presidential primary law.

State and federal prosecutors confirmed that the letter writer was the same man arrested by the FBI and Mobile police for making threats to WPMI-TV, as well as stealing money from the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science, where he worked as the finance officer.

Leonard, who was released on bond, did not return phone messages left at his Mobile home. His attorney, Joe Carl "Buzz" Jordan, said he had not discussed the letter with his client.

Charlie McNichol, spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Mobile, said the letter to the Justice Department appears unrelated to Leonard's criminal cases.

But officials who worked on the case were surprised Leonard would write the Justice Department while the other matters were brewing.

The reaction from Mobile County District Attorney John Tyson Jr. when he heard about the letter was: "Are you kidding?"

Tyson said the theft charges resulted from school officials noticing financial discrepancies when they tried to make payroll while Leonard was being held in jail on the threat charges.

"The folks at the school expressed shock and dismay," Tyson aid.

Attorney General Troy King, who recently submitted Alabama's presidential primary law for Justice Department review, said Leonard's letter is the only one he's aware of that has raised any concerns about Alabama's early primary, and he doesn't expect any problems getting Justice Department approval.

Joe Reed, a vice chairman of the Alabama Democratic Party, said Republican and Democratic party officials crafted the legislation together, and he also expects no problems getting Justice Department approval.

Changes in Alabama's election laws don't become official until they are approved by the Justice Department. Its decision on the law is expected by fall.

Leonard, who had worked for the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science in Mobile since 1999, wrote the letter to the Justice Department on June 1. His letter complained about Mobile and Baldwin counties being allowed to have early voting next year because the primary date coincides with the Mardi Gras holiday in the two counties.

He said the week's delay between early voting in the two counties on Jan. 30 and voting Feb. 5 in the rest of the state could lead to ballot boxes being stuffed or could result in election results in the two coastal counties being leaked to the media to influence the rest of the state.

Leonard, who favored a different primary date, told the Justice Department: "I encourage you to deny the State of Alabama's request to conduct the elections in this manner."

Mobile County Probate Judge Don Davis, who organizes elections in Mobile County, said he had seen Leonard's letter and was aware of his arrest. But he said he doesn't share Leonard's concerns about the early voting and he's satisfied the procedures will work.

Leonard, 37, was arrested June 16 on charges accusing him of sending e-mails to WPMI that threatened violence against the station over working conditions. Leonard's roommate worked at the station.

Federal court documents say the e-mails, written as if the author worked for WPMI, claimed that guns were hidden inside the station and ready for use in a violent assault.

"I promise if and when ready, Virginia Tech will look lame. ... I will probably go down myself when I finally decide to use my guns in the building," one e-mail said.

A week later, Mobile County's district attorney announced that Leonard had been charged with theft and forgery involving more than $73,000 from the Alabama School of Mathematics and Science.

Tyson said it's too early to say if there will be additional charges.

"The school is still doing work to find out what is there, if anything," he said.

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