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Judge: Leon ‘truly a dangerous person’

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By Damon Lawrence

Leon Houston filed a public petition to counter the government’s contention that he posed a threat to the community.

“Clifford Leon Houston is not a flight risk,” the petition said. “Clifford Leon Houston will be present for any and all court appearances imposed by the court.”

Defense attorney Mike Whalen introduced the document at Houston’s sentencing hearing on March 4.

More than 100 names were listed on the petition, which also called for Houston’s release from federal custody.

“Clifford Leon Houston does not pose a danger to the community or any other person,” the petition said.

U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves wasn’t moved.

“I disagree strongly with those individuals,” he said. “He is truly a dangerous person.”

Reeves sentenced Houston, 55, to five years in prison for his conviction on a charge of using a telephone communication to threaten to kill Cleveland attorney James Logan.

The sentencing guidelines called for only 10-16 months, but Reeves was not bound by the guidelines.

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At one point during the sentencing hearing, Houston raised up out of his seat to take a closer look at a computer screen.

U.S. Marshal John Sanchez put him back in the seat and told him not to get up.

Houston responded by asking Whalen to have Sanchez removed from the courtroom.

Whalen never made the request to the judge.

Sanchez used to work as an investigator for District Attorney General Russell Johnson.

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Following arguments by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jennings and Whalen, Reeves gave Houston the opportunity to speak.

He went on for more than an hour. The long diatribe didn’t help his cause.

“The court will certainly consider the statements Mr. Houston made here today,” Reeves said before handing down the sentence. “They only support the argument made by Mr. Jennings. All of the good points Mr. Whalen made were wiped out by Mr. Houston.”

Jennings asked the court to go above the sentencing guidelines and give Houston the maximum five-year sentence.

During his harangue, Houston had harsh comments about Jennings and other federal officials, Logan, judges he’s appeared before in the past, the justice system, local police and Bill Jones and Mike Brown.

Jones was a Roane County sheriff’s deputy and Brown was in his patrol car on a ride-along when they were killed in a shootout with Houston and his brother, Rocky Houston, on May 11, 2006.

A photo of Jones slumped over dead in his patrol car was shown at the sentencing hearing. The Houston brothers reportedly affixed the photo to a billboard on their property.

“One of the most disgusting things I’ve ever seen,” Jennings told the judge.

“In his mind, those are trophies. That’s the kill. That’s the mentality of the man you’re dealing with here.”

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Logan successfully represented Leon Houston when he faced state murder charges for the deaths of Jones and Brown.

Logan testified their relationship was fine after Houston was acquitted in November 2009.

The relationship began to deteriorate, Logan said, when he sought payment for his legal services.

“It was impossible to communicate with him.” Logan said.

Logan said he tried for more than a year to work out a payment plan with Houston.

“He said things about the consequences of continuing to ask for payment,” Logan said.

Logan said he started to carry a firearm because he was concerned about Houston.

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Former Roane County sheriff’s deputy Michael Herrell testified about an incident with Houston on Dogtown Road.

Herrell, who now works for the Tennessee Highway Patrol, said he was trying to serve a civil paper on Houston when he ran up a ridgeline.

“I asked him to come down and take the paper,” Herrell said. “He replied (expletive) and fired a shot.”

Houston said the incident never happened.

“I’m a good shot,” he said. “I’m one of the best. If I had shot at him, he wouldn’t be here today.”

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Houston’s prison sentence will be followed by three years of supervised release. He is prohibited from possessing a firearm during that time.

Houston must undergo a mental health evaluation, and he won’t be allowed to go within 1,000 feet of Logan, Logan’s wife, home, office or vehicle.