Jailed for a year, ‘All I kept thinking about was my family’
One of the five men charged with murder let out of jail recently on unsecured bonds is behind bars again after being charged with two felonies and a misdemeanor.
Ledarius Samuel, 19, was arrested Wednesday and charged with felony breaking and entering of a home on Kennebec Drive, a section of Chapel Hill that is in Durham County.
He was also charged with possession of firearm by a felon, a felony, and carrying a concealed weapon, a misdemeanor. In 2016 Samuel was convicted of felony conspiracy to commit robbery with a dangerous weapon, for which he remains on probation.
Samuel’s attorney, Allyn Sharp, said during a court hearing Thursday there is something “very suspicious” about the timing of Samuel's arrest.
Samuel was featured in articles in The Herald-Sun that ran online Monday and in print Tuesday. The articles reported on court hearings in which a judge let Samuel and four other murder suspects out of jail on unsecured bonds, citing weak evidence. Samuel was featured in a video accompanying the articles talking about how he missed his family while he was in jail.
“This is a way for the Durham Police Department to try to get to Ledarius,” Sharp said.
She also claims her client’s constitutional right to an attorney was violated and that law enforcement may have arrested him to try to get information on the death of a Durham teenager last weekend that he doesn’t know anything about.
The prosecutor and a Sheriff's Office official said they have no concerns about their handling of the case.
"As with most investigations, the defense attorney will receive answers to the questions she posed during discovery," said Sheriff's Office Maj. Paul Martin. Discovery is the sharing of evidence between legal sides before trial.
The murder charge
Samuel is charged with murder, assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and four counts of robbery with a dangerous weapon in the Jan. 12, 2017, fatal shooting of Felipe Aleman Perez, 42, on South Roxboro Street. He is also charged in the shooting of Perez’s then 18-year-old son.
Sharp has said her client was picking up his mother and buying shoes at the time of the robberies and shooting. After he spent more than a year in jail, Samuel’s bond was changed on Jan. 29 from $750,000 secured to $750,000 unsecured by Chief Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, who cited weak evidence in the case. An unsecured bond requires a signature promising to pay an amount of money if the defendant fails to return to court. His bond conditions included having no contact with witnesses, reporting to his probation officer and no weapon possession.
Sharp learned about Samuel’s arrest on the new charges Wednesday from his mother, who told her Durham police investigator E. Ortiz, the lead investigator in the 2017 murder case, had arrested her son.
Sharp went to the magistrate’s office, she said, and waited for her client to be brought to the jail, but he never came. She went to the Police Department, and spoke with Ortiz’s supervisor, who told her Samuel’s charges were being handled by the Sheriff’s Office.
“I asked if Detective Ortiz was in fact with Mr. Samuel,” Sharp said. “She said that he was.”
Sharp said she asked the supervisor to communicate to Ortiz that all interviews stop.
Sharp said she then went to the Sheriff’s Office, and asked the woman at the front desk about Samuel.
“Actually, [I] demanded to see my client. She opened the door to check with investigators, let them know I was there, and she came back and said ‘Not right now,’” Sharp said. “And, as your honor knows, that is a very clear violation of Mr. Samuel’s right to counsel.”
Jamaal Lowery, Samuel’s co-defendant, also faces the two guns charges. He is also charged with two counts of felony breaking and entering related to Nov. 7 incidents at Chapel Hill addresses on Crescent and Kennebec drives, according to an arrest warrant. The latter is a different house on the same street Samuel is charged with breaking into on Feb. 12.
Miranda rights questioned
Sharp said she eventually saw Samuel Wednesday evening and then spoke with him Thursday morning. He told her that investigators told him he had to sign a Miranda rights waiver, and that he asked for her several times, Sharp said.
Sharp said the gun that was allegedly linked to Samuel after he was stopped by law enforcement on Wednesday was found in Lowery’s glove box.
“My client absolutely denies having any knowledge that there was a gun in Mr. Lowery’s car,” she said. Lowery also faces two gun charges from the same gun, Sharp said.
“I think that your honor knows when multiple people are charged with possession of the same firearm there is going to be some issue with the state being able to prove the case,” she said.
On the breaking and entering charges, Sharp questions why Samuel was arrested on Wednesday, two days after The Herald-Sun’s articles and video went online, for a crime that law enforcement officers allege happened Feb. 12.
Sharp said Samuel told her the Sheriff’s Office said a car similar to his mother's was seen at the break-in. Sharp questioned why Samuel’s mother wasn’t contacted if deputies thought it was her car.
Once Samuel was arrested by the Sheriff’s Offices, Sharp said, Samuel was questioned by a Durham police investigator about the recent homicide in the city “that he doesn’t know anything about.”
Held without bail
Assistant District Attorney Stormy Ellis successfully asked District Court Judge Pat Evans to hold Samuel without bail, so he remains in jail. Ellis said she is also seeking to get another bond hearing in front of Hudson on the murder charge. Evans set Lowery's bail at $50,000 after Ellis asked for it to be set at $250,000.
After the hearing, Ellis said she has no concerns about the handling of Samuel’s case, and said that Ortiz was present for Lowery’s case.
“There are several different cases that we are all investigating that crossed over,” Ellis said.
Martin, with the Sheriff's Office, said Sharp’s “implication does not reflect the reality of the findings of the investigation.”
Samuel was arrested when probable cause surfaced, he said.
“The suspect was read his Miranda Rights and signed a waiver and the lawyer was allowed to see her client,” Martin said. “Many times investigations are complex and inextricably intertwined with other crimes and incidents involving numerous individuals. Upon completion of these multiple interrelated investigations the attorney will receive unambiguous answers to her questions. And furthermore the arrest was neither timed nor made to embarrass anyone in the criminal justice system as it relates to the bail bond system.”