Originally created 11/18/02

Stage is set for LeBlanc trial



Once again, a jury will be asked Tuesday to decide whether Aaron LeBlanc raped a woman.

Mr. LeBlanc, 20, has pleaded innocent in Gaston County (N.C.) Superior Court to charges of first-degree sexual offense, kidnapping, breaking and entering, and robbery with a dangerous weapon.

On March 18, less than a month after he was acquitted of three rape charges in Augusta, police in Gastonia, N.C., arrested Mr. LeBlanc after a Gastonia neighbor identified him as the man who raped her.

With the charge filed so soon after Mr. LeBlanc's acquittal in Richmond County Superior Court, media coverage was intense in Gastonia and the nearby Charlotte area. Superior Court Judge Jesse Caldwell granted a defense request that a jury be selected from outside the area.

Last Thursday and Friday, jury selection took place in nearby Rutherford County

Mr. LeBlanc's attorney also convinced the judge that jurors in North Carolina should not hear the allegations of the three Augusta-area women who accused Mr. LeBlanc of rape, or of Mr. LeBlanc's willingness to plead guilty in exchange for a 20-year prison sentence.

The plea negotiation worked out in Richmond County had been rejected by a judge who deemed it too lenient. Four months later, Mr. LeBlanc stood trial and was acquitted Feb. 21. He testified that the sexual contact with the three young women was consensual.

The latest allegation came from a 24-year-old woman who lived in the apartment complex where Mr. LeBlanc was staying with his brother.

According to the police reports, the woman said Mr. LeBlanc knocked on her door on a Monday morning and asked to use her bathroom because his apartment had a plumbing problem.

Once inside, according to police reports, he struck the woman, threatened her with a knife and sexually assaulted her. Afterward, she told police, the man she identified as Mr. LeBlanc made her clean herself and then bagged the washcloth and her clothing and took the items with him.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or shodson@augustachronicle.com.