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Preparing a defense while an inmate at the Blount County Jail has been difficult for Leon Houston.
“I’ve tried to order legal jargon,” he told U.S. Magistrate C. Clifford Shirley Jr. on Monday. “I’ve been denied legal jargon and case law. It’s hindering my defense.”
Leon Houston is representing himself on a federal charge of possessing a firearm while being an unlawful user of a controlled substance.
Shirley told him to have his advisory counsel, Charles Poole, assist him in obtaining the “legal jargon” he seeks.
The trial is scheduled for Aug. 6. A pretrial conference was held on Monday at the federal courthouse in Knoxville.
“You still want to do that?” Shirley asked Leon Houston about representing himself.
“Yes, sir,” he responded.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Jennings told the court that he will be starting his trial preparation this week.
The case is pretty simple, Jennings said.
“It’s the execution of a warrant,” he said. “Introduce the evidence that was found.”
The charge stems from Leon Houston’s encounter with federal agents on Jan. 11. His younger brother, Rocky Houston, was arrested at United Community Bank in Kingston that day on allegations that he illegally possessed firearms.
The investigation took agents to the Houston family farm on Barnard Narrows Road in Ten Mile. According to court records, they were securing the area around Rocky Houston’s residence when Leon Houston approached them on a four-wheeler armed with three loaded firearms.
During questioning, Leon Houston allegedly admitted to “getting high” and made a reference to “wacky tobacco.”
In addition to the alleged statements, Roane County Sheriff’s Office Detective Jason Mynatt said marijuana residue, hemostats and scissors was found in Leon Houston’s house.
“What do hemostats and scissors, when found with marijuana residue, mean to you?” Jennings asked Mynatt during a hearing on Jan. 17.
“Preparing the marijuana to be smoked,” Mynatt responded. “A hemostat is used to aid in the smoking of it.”
During a hearing in April, ATF Special Agent Jason Dobbs testified that Leon Houston’s house smelled like marijuana the night he was arrested.
On Monday Jennings said the government’s evidence at trial will include photos, testimony and lab analysis. He said there’s no telling what kind of evidence Leon Houston will attempt to introduce.
“I can anticipate any number of wild exhibits he wants to put in front of this jury,” Jennings said.
The Houston brothers have long contended they are the victims of a vast conspiracy that stretches from Kingston to Nashville to Washington, D.C.
The conspiracy theories have often tried Shirley’s patience. They did again on Monday.
“I’m not answering your questions Mr. Houston,” Shirley said.
“Why not?” Leon Houston asked.
“Why not? Because I don’t do that,” Shirley responded.
U.S. District Court Judge Danny Reeves will be presiding over the trial. Shirley said Reeves will also be the one questioning the potential jurors.
Leon Houston is also charged with threatening to kill attorney James Logan via a telephone. His trial on that charge is scheduled for Sept. 24.
The federal charges were originally set to be tried together, but last week Shirley granted Leon Houston’s motion to sever the counts.
Poole is representing him on the charge related to the alleged threat of Logan. Poole is advisory counsel on the firearm charge.
Rocky Houston faces 14 counts of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. His trial is scheduled for Aug. 19.
All trial dates are tentative.