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Defense attorneys: Mark Leonard willing to take plea deal

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WISH) — Defense attorneys for a key suspect in the 2012 south side explosion case acknowledged that their client, Mark Leonard, was willing to take a plea deal, but it appears Marion County prosecutors aren’t interested.

That revelation emerged during a hearing Wednesday in a St. Joseph County courtroom, where Leonard’s trial is set to take place in June.

“No. There’s no negotiations. We are prepared to go to trial on June 4,” said Marion County deputy prosecutor Denise Robinson.

When asked if Leonard offered to take a plea deal, Robinson said, “No plea deal was offered by the state. Ethically, I can’t say anything more.”

During the hearing, one of Leonard’s attorneys, Dave Shircliff, said they had made “good faith plea negotiations.” Before making that statement, Shircliff said “On Feb. 25, Mark Leonard offered …”

He was then cut off by Robinson who objected and asked that plea deals not be mentioned in open court.

Afterwards, none of Leonard’s defense attorneys would talk to reporters.

The main focus of a Wednesday hearing was a fight between prosecutors and defense attorneys over whether statements Bob Leonard made to investigators should be admitted at trial. The defense also wanted to suppress evidence from jail house informant Robert Smith.

Smith allegedly provided evidence to investigators that Mark Leonard was trying to hire someone to kill a witness in the case.

“If someone conspires to kill a state’s witness, we believe that’s highly probative to show that he is, in fact, guilty of that offense,” Robinson said.

The defense also accused prosecutors of giving Smith a secret deal, claiming he might have earned more than simply a bond reduction from prosecutors through his work as a jail house informant on Mark Leonard.

“That would absolutely (be) unethical for a prosecutor to enter into that kind of deal – a secret deal and not divulge it to the defense. I’ve been a prosecutor for more than 20 years. I couldn’t fathom such a thing,” said Robinson.

The judge is expected to rule on the motions to suppress evidence early next week.

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