Originally created 07/25/02

Judge's decision returns suspect



Superior Court Judge Neal Dickert ordered rape suspect Aaron LeBlanc back to North Carolina on Wednesday.

The judge then stayed the ruling until 5 p.m. Monday. That's the deadline Judge Dickert gave Mr. LeBlanc to file a motion contesting extradition warrants issued by governors in North Carolina and Georgia.

Mr. LeBlanc faces rape charges in Gaston County, N.C., where he was arrested in March a month after being acquitted in three Richmond County rape cases.

Mr. LeBlanc's appointed attorney, Sam Sibley, agreed that all the necessary paperwork was in order but asked Judge Dickert to give Mr. LeBlanc 20 days to file his motion, as is mandated by state law.

He said five days was not enough time because Mr. LeBlanc is in the Columbia County Detention Center and must rely on the post office to deliver the motion and any response.

"I think this is being handled quicker than due process will allow," Mr. Sibley said.

District Attorney Danny Craig said he received a motion from Mr. LeBlanc on Monday that contested the North Carolina warrant. He said he believes that five days was sufficient time for the matter to be processed through the court system.

Mr. Sibley said he wasn't aware of a motion being sent to Mr. Craig but said it would be invalid because the warrant was not issued until Wednesday.

Mr. Sibley urged Judge Dickert to "err on the side of caution" and give Mr. LeBlanc additional time, especially after considering the reason Wednesday's hearing was needed.

Mr. LeBlanc was relocated to Columbia County a week ago after a Gaston County judge ruled he was not allowed the proper extradition process before previously being moved from Columbia County to Gaston County.

Mr. Sibley said the short time frame given to Mr. LeBlanc on Wednesday might open the door for a North Carolina judge to send him back to Columbia County.

"If he is not afforded his rights," Mr. Sibley said, "in my humble opinion, we will be back here again."

Reach Louie Villalobos at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 109, or ccchron@augustachronicle.com.