Originally created 11/19/02

LeBlanc's rape trial is delayed



GASTONIA, N.C. - Aaron LeBlanc's trial on rape and other charges was delayed a day Monday.

Instead of starting Tuesday morning, the Gaston County Superior Court trial is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in Gastonia. A death in the family of one of the attorneys led to the delay.

Mr. LeBlanc, who turned 20 last month in the county jail, has pleaded innocent to charges of first-degree rape, first-degree sexual assault, kidnapping, robbery with a dangerous weapon, and breaking and entering.

He is accused of assaulting his 25-year-old neighbor the morning of March 18 in the apartment complex where he moved after his Feb. 21 acquittal of rape charges in Richmond County Superior Court.

The witnesses will include Mr. LeBlanc's brother and sister-in-law, with whom he was living, and Michael Garrett,a neighborto whom the defendant spoke the day of the alleged assault, according to court documents.

"You've got to lie for me; tell the police that you saw what happened," Mr. LeBlanc said to Mr. Garrett, according to the documents.

The alleged victim told police that Mr. LeBlanc knocked on her door and asked to use her bathroom because the plumbing was broken in his apartment. Recognizing him as a new neighbor, she told police, she let him in. After several minutes in the bathroom, he came out, rushed at her with a knife and sexually assaulted her, she told police. After forcing her to clean herself, he took the washcloth she used and the dress and sweater she had been wearing.

Police found the sweater in a nearby wooded area. DNA testing revealed that blood stains on it were the woman's.

When questioned by police, Mr. LeBlanc said he had punched the woman because she was rude to him when he asked her for a cigarette, according to court documents.

he woman's sweater tested negative for any of Mr. LeBlanc's DNA. The woman's medical records from March 18 have been sealed in the court documents.

Mr. LeBlanc has been held since March, unable to post a $500,000 bond. Less than a month before his arrest in Gastonia, he was acquitted of charges filed by three Augusta-area women. They said he had sexually assaulted them on separate dates about six months apart.

None of those women will testify at the trial, although they plan to attend as spectators, they said.

The prosecutor had wanted to call Amanda Revis, the last Augustan to accuse Mr. LeBlanc of rape, as a witness. Her description of an assault was similar to that the Gastonia woman reported, according to court documents. The judge in Gastonia ruled, however, that the jury cannot hear about the allegations in Georgia.

It is The Augusta Chronicle's policy not to identify people who report sexual assaults unless they give the newspaper permission to do so.

According to North Carolina court documents, both the Gastonia woman and Ms. Revis told police that an assailant tricked them into allowing him inside their apartments, where he choked them and threatened to kill them if they made any noise. They reported that the attacker pulled their hair and made them wash afterward to remove any biological evidence.

The Gaston County trial is expected to last several days.

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