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Coke machine vandalism suspect arrested

CAS freshman Gray Leonard charged with misdemeanor

Coke machine vandalism suspect arrested
Public Safety investigator Keith Gray said he believes Gray Leonard, a freshman in the College in the Arts and Sciences, is pictured here right before the vandalism of the machines. Gray also said Leonard confessed to vandalizing the machines.

The Department of Public Safety arrested Gray Leonard April 9 in connection with the vandalism of two Coca-Cola vending machines in Ward Circle Building, according to Public Safety and D.C. court documents.

Leonard, a freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences, was charged with destruction of property worth under $1,000, a minor misdemeanor, according to AU Public Safety investigator Keith Gray.

Leonard pleaded not guilty to the charges of destruction of property, according to D.C. Superior Court documentation of Leonard's case.

Judge Robert Tignor ordered Leonard April 29 to complete 32 hours of community service, according the documentation.

Leonard’s next D.C. court hearing is scheduled for Aug. 29. Leonard said that if he completes the community service and pays $1,500, the case may be dropped.

Public Safety offered him the opportunity to downgrade his charges from a felony to a misdemeanor if he confessed and named a co-conspirator, Leonard said in an interview. Gray declined to comment on further details of the interrogation.

Leonard allegedly confessed to Gray and Public Safety Manager of Investigations Capt. Kevin Mason in the interrogation that he vandalized the machines in protest of Coca-Cola’s labor practices and was inspired by the "Campaign to Stop Killer Coke," Gray said.

Gray said he has "reason to believe [Leonard] was involved in all the vandalisms on campus." More Coke machine vandalism occurred in Bender Arena, Mary Graydon Center and Asbury Building. The attacks often included cutting the power cords, filling credit card readers and coin slots with caulk and spray-painting the fronts.

DPS suspects Leonard based on CAUS affiliation

Public Safety originally named Leonard as a person of interest in part because of his connection to the Coalition of American University Students, an on-campus advocacy organization known for its protest of AU’s tuition hike, according to Gray.

"The MO, it fit for the type of causes [CAUS is] against," Gray said.

Leonard allegedly implicated another member of CAUS, and Public Safety has named him a "person of interest," according to Gray. But there was not enough material evidence to warrant a criminal conviction, Gray said.

CAUS Media Liaison Zachery Moore in an email statement denied that the organization has an agenda against Coca-Cola and said "to my knowledge" nobody else in CAUS knew about Leonard’s alleged vandalism.

"The fact that [P]ublic [S]afety considered membership in a politically active university club as a suspicious characteristic is outrageous," Moore said in the email "...That its membership is being targeted in activities completely unrelated to the CAUS is extremely disconcerting."

"I literally had no idea that any of that was going on...utterly nothing," said Niusha Nawab, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences and a member of CAUS.

During the four-hour long investigation, Leonard claimed the charges against him were not read to him, nor was he allowed to see the warrant.

"They didn’t really tell me what I thought I should know, especially with what I was being charged with," Leonard said.

However, Gray said that Leonard never asked to see the charges or the arrest warrant.

'He was informed of the arrest warrant and his rights and standard investigative questions were used during his processing," AU Associate Director of Media Relations Maralee Csellar said in an email.

Leonard was read his Miranda rights, according to Leonard and Gray.

Leonard in jail and Student Conduct

Leonard spent the night of April 9 at the Court Services and Offender Supervision Agency.

AU is not suing Leonard because he confessed, cooperated and had no previous record, according to Gray.

Leonard had a one-on-one meeting with the Director of Student Conduct and Resolution Services Rosie McSweeney and a hearing officer on May 3, he said in an interview with The Eagle before the conference. Requests to Leonard for a follow-up interview after the interview were unanswered.

According to the Student Conduct System guidelines, AU can give Leonard a warning, censure him, put him on probation or have him pay restitution if the officer and Dean of Students Rob Hradsky decide he is responsible for violating the Student Conduct Code.

The Student Conduct Code prohibits, "intentionally or recklessly destroying or damaging university property or the property of others."

Leonard has the option to appeal the decision.

zcohen@theeagleonline.com


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