A much-delayed jury trial in the murder of prominent Midlands Mexican restaurant operator Greg Leon has been postponed again, this time until June.
According to a March 16 Lexington County court order issued by State Judge Walton McLeod, a shortage of qualified interpreters, believed to be Spanish-English, caused the latest delay.
The weeks of June 19 and 26 are now set aside for Leon’s trial, McLeod wrote in the order. Leon was due to appear in court this week.
Leon was charged with murder in 2016 after he shot and killed his wife’s alleged lover Arturo Bravo while she and Bravo were in the back seat of an SUV in a public parking lot near the intersection of Interstate 20 and US 378.
The case is notorious because Leon is famous in the Midlands for his chain of popular Mexican restaurants, which employs hundreds of people. The murder happened on Valentine’s Day and he told a 911 operator that “I shot my wife’s lover.” The documents say that at the time of the execution, Bravo was wearing only socks.
The warrant in the case says the shooting was caught on video.
Leon and his lawyers said that Leon acted in self-defense.
Prosecutors for the 11th Judicial District rejected Leon’s explanation and charged him with murder.
Leon is represented by experienced Colombian criminal defense attorney Jack Swerling.
McLeod’s order states that the case “requires interpreters, and while courthouse staff have been hard at work on scheduling interpreters for the duration of the trial, it remains unclear whether interpreters will be available when needed.”
State court officials with knowledge of the status of Spanish-English interpreters in courtrooms in South Carolina courts could not be contacted.
In a March 9 court order by State Supreme Court Chief Justice Donald Beatty, the SC Judicial Administration “will maintain a centralized list of certified or otherwise qualified translators.” The order states that certified court-appointed interpreters are paid $65 an hour plus mileage.
The trial of Leon, now seven, has been repeatedly delayed, including due to COVID-19 and the lengthy 2019 Lexington County death penalty trial of Tim Jones, who was found guilty of killing his five children. and sentenced to death.
Last July, State Judge Debra McCaslin scheduled a trial for January.
“This is the oldest case on my list,” McCaslin said. But the trial dragged on again.
At a court hearing at which McCaslin spoke last year, more than 40 friends and family members showed up at the Lexington County Courthouse in support of Leon.
In 2020, the Los Angeles Times wrote about Leon, describing him as a naturalized American citizen who is “the type of guy who paid the medical bills of a brain cancer worker who threw epic barbeques at U.S.C. football games.” and donated thousands of dollars to his native village in Mexico.”
Midlands Columbia Living magazine described Leon in 2015 as “a man who doesn’t mind the 12-hour day it takes to get everything done.” The article says that he owned numerous restaurants called “San Jose” and “Pancho”. The article says he lives on a 30-acre property in Lexington County and breeds Andalusian and Friesian horses.
A month before the 2016 shooting, Leon was fined $180,000 in federal court after being found guilty of hiring 60 undocumented workers as employees at his restaurants.
In 2015, Leon pleaded guilty in state court to paying money to former Lexington County Sheriff Jimmy Metts to get undocumented workers who worked at his restaurants out of Metts Jail. Metts was later allowed to plead guilty to conspiracy to harbor undocumented immigrants and spent a year in federal prison.