Until several years ago, Greg Leon was known for running a chain of seven Mexican restaurants in Richland, Newberry, Lexington and Orangeburg counties.
He was an avid University of South Carolina sports fan. Born in Mexico, he had become a naturalized citizen.
But in 2016, he admitted to the Valentine’s Day slaying of his wife’s lover while the pair was embracing in the back seat of a Toyota Tundra pickup in a deserted Lexington County parking lot.
Leon turned himself in to authorities after calling 911 and telling the operator, “I shot my wife’s lover.”
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Now, however, he is asking for a jury trial and plans to plead not guilty to the murder charge, according to his lawyers.
Attorney Eric Bland, who with attorney Dick Harpootlian is representing Leon, said Leon is working and obeying the court’s rules.
“He is currently under house arrest and works every day and complies with the terms of his bond,” Bland said.
Under those terms, Leon must wear an electronic ankle monitor that tracks his whereabouts. He is allowed to work at his restaurants, where he goes “seven days a week,” as well as to church on Sunday, Bland said. He also can keep doctor’s appointments, Bland said. If Leon violates his bond, he must forfeit $500,000.
He can have no contact with his wife, who once asked the judge to let him return home because she believed he wasn’t a threat to her.
The murder charge is the last unresolved case in Leon’s series of recent legal problems.
In one case, he pleaded guilty to state charges of bribing a public official and was given probation. In another, he pleaded guilty to a federal charge of employing some 60 undocumented workers at his restaurants. Judge Joe Anderson gave him a $180,000 fine and probation for that offense.
But Leon eventually served six months in a federal prison in Virginia because the murder charge violated the terms of the probation he got for employing the undocumented workers. He returned to Columbia in December.
In the bribery case that preceded everything else, Leon provided key information to federal officials that led to the surprise 2014 guilty plea of once-popular, longtime Lexington County Sheriff Jimmy Metts.
Because of Leon’s information and other evidence, Metts pleaded guilty not to bribery, but to a federal felony charge of conspiring to harbor illegal immigrants and served almost a year in federal prison.
Leon admitted he gave a middleman money to deliver bribes to Metts for the release of Leon’s restaurant workers who had been arrested for being in the country illegally. Had Metts not pleaded guilty, Leon would have testified against him during a trial, Harpootlian said in 2015.
The man Leon shot in the Valentine’s Day lover’s triangle killing in 2016 was ultimately identified as an undocumented Mexican citizen, Arturo Bravo Santos, who was 28. Leon said the man was the lover of his wife of 27 years, Maria.
No trial date has been set. But it might not be far off.
“It will late fall before we have a trial,” said 11th Circuit Solicitor Rick Hubbard, explaining his office is handling several major cases now. “His case is (among) the ones we want to try to move in this next six-month period.”