Pubdate: Tue, 14 Oct 2014
Source: Star-News (Wilmington, NC)
Copyright: 2014 Wilmington Morning Star
Author: F.T. Norton


Buoyed by dozens of supporters on Monday - so many that they didn't
all fit in the courtroom - former New Hanover County Sheriff's Office
lieutenant Joseph Antoine LeBlanc was sentenced to more than four
years in prison for crimes he committed to feed his pain pill
addiction while he was second in command of the vice unit.

After being fired in June 2013, being indicted on 128 counts related
to the stealing of drug evidence and the forging of a judge's
signature to procure more pain pills, and the dismissal of at least
nine drug cases, LeBlanc could have received 285 years in prison for
the charges to which he pleaded Monday, said Superior Court Judge W.
Douglas Parsons.

But Parsons, following the sentence in a plea agreement LeBlanc made
with special prosecutor Adrian Harris of the N.C. Attorney General's
Office, sentenced the 18- year sheriff's office veteran to 4.6 to 7.1
years in prison, with an additional 39 years in prison suspended.

LeBlanc pleaded guilty to four counts of embezzlement, four counts of
obtaining property by false pretenses, four counts of obstruction of
justice, four counts of altering/destroying/stealing evidence, 28
counts of forgery, 28 counts of uttering a forged instrument and 28
counts of obtaining a controlled substance by false pretenses. A
number of drug trafficking and possession charges were dismissed in
exchange for LeBlanc's plea.

Upon his release, LeBlanc, 42, must serve 13 months of supervised
probation, Parsons ordered.

He also agreed with a defense request for work release and said he
would recommend as much to the N.C. Department of Correction. The news
pleased some of LeBlanc's supporters who gasped approvingly. "Frankly,
a sentence of five years for a man like you is a lifetime," said
Parsons, who stated several times during the proceeding he was
treating this case as he would any other case involving a defendant
with no criminal record. "You're still a young man. Once you get out
you can go on and live a very productive life." "I will," LeBlanc said.

Before being led out of the courtroom, an emotional LeBlanc turned and
kissed his three sons. He did not address the court outside of
responding to the judge's questions and no one spoke on his behalf
beyond his two attorneys. The criminal indictments state LeBlanc,
under the ruse of reviewing the work of subordinates, stole
prescription medications from the New Hanover County Sheriff's This
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three occasions.

He also forged the signature of New Hanover County Superior Court
Judge W. Allen Cobb and a New Hanover County assistant district
attorney on falsified court orders used to acquire the medications
from a College Road pharmacy.

Because the forgeries involved a judge and district attorney, both the
judge and DA's office recused themselves from the case.

As a result of LeBlanc's crimes, the district's attorney's office
dropped 31 drug charges against nine different defendants.

J. Michael McGuinness, LeBlanc's attorney, said LeBlanc's addiction to
pain pills began when he was "injured several times on duty." When
asked by Parsons what the injuries were, McGuinness indicated LeBlanc
suffered injuries to his hand and ribs. "From 2009 to 2012 he battled
opioid addiction," McGuinness said. He said that in January 2013,
LeBlanc entered drug rehabilitation in California on his own, but upon
his successful completion, he went back to work in the vice and
narcotics unit and his addiction was reborn.

Frank Jones, also a LeBlanc attorney, said LeBlanc's addiction was so
severe that in June 2012 the amount of opiates in his system was 60
percent higher than the fatal level. Even after rehab a year later in
June 2013, blood testing revealed levels within the fatal range, Jones

Jones then read an email LeBlanc received from a woman shortly after
his case was made public.

In it, the woman, who was not named, admitted she was once addicted to
opiates which resulted in contact with law enforcement. She said she
had only one phone call with LeBlanc, but he was so kind and
understanding that she took his advice and sought help. She credited
LeBlanc with saving her life, Jones read. "This man has served very
honorably for many years.

That should not be forgotten today," McGuinness said. "This is one of
the saddest cases I've seen in my 31 years of lawyering." 
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