ALBANY, N.Y. — Calling him a "despicable" person, a federal judge sentenced Edward Leon to 10 years in prison Thursday, for lying to a grand jury about his actions and whereabouts the night of a fatal arson in Schenectady.
Leon had testified before a grand jury in 2014 that he was nowhere near Hulett Street in Schenectady, when an early-morning fire broke out there on May 2, 2013. Leon later told investigators that he was a mere 50 feet from the scene and actually saw flames licking the front porch before he fled the area.
Leon had also admitted that he was embroiled in a domestic dispute between his girlfriend and another man, David Terry, who lived at the Hulett Street home. For weeks prior to the fire, Leon had used a TracFone to anonymously send threatening text messages to Terry.
David Terry and three of his children, including an infant, were killed in the fire. A fourth child, Sa'Fyre Terry, was severely injured and disfigured by the fire. Federal prosecutors have often claimed that evidence of Leon's involvement in the arson is "significant," but thus far have declined to indict him for the arson murder.
Leon has consistently denied setting the fire, including in an interview with Time Warner Cable News in 2014. At his sentencing Thursday, Leon maintained his innocence.
"The only thing I actually did was lie before a grand jury," Leon told the judge. "I had nothing to do with anything else."
Federal magistrate Gary Sharpe responded briskly: "I believe that about as much as I believe anything you told the grand jury, or told investigators," Sharpe said. "Your behavior is despicable. You're despicable."
A relative of the the deceased, seated in the gallery, could also be heard muttering toward Leon: "God have mercy on your soul."
Outside court on Thursday, David Terry's surviving sister, Liz Dolder, called Leon a coward.
"My family's dead; they're never coming back. Why would you lie on top of that, and cause us to not get justice?" Dolder questioned. "Edward Leon once called my brother a coward, in a [Time Warner Cable News] interview. But who's really the real coward? He is.
"He can't accept responsibility for his own actions."
Speaking after court, Assistant United States Attorney Grant Jaquith confirmed that tips continue to roll in about the 2013 arson, though none have led to any criminal charges. A $40,000 reward remains available to anyone who can provide information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.
The mother of the deceased children, Jennica Duell, is also a target in the federal arson probe. She will have a similar perjury trial beginning on May 16.