- Essex District Attorney’s Office
Media Contact for Man Pleads Guilty to Gun and Animal Cruelty Charges While Jury Deliberates
Carrie Kimball Monahan, Director of Communications
Salem, Massachusetts — While the jury in his gun case was deliberating, a 33-year old Salem pleaded guilty to the charges as well as animal cruelty and drug charges that were pending against him. Judge Thomas Drechsler sentenced him to 6 to 9 years in state prison followed by 2 years of probation, during which he may not own or reside with a pet.
John Leger pleaded guilty to carrying a loaded firearm, being an armed career criminal, three counts of animal cruelty and witness intimidation. He will also plead guilty to drug related conspiracy charges which are currently pending.
On June 2, 2017, Leger was arrested by Massachusetts State Police Violent Fugitive Apprehension Section on a warrant obtained by Salem Police alleging larceny. At the time, Leger was out on bail on a pending animal cruelty case. When State Police searched the vehicle he was driving, they found a loaded Smith & Wesson hand gun licensed to his girlfriend. Since Leger has a criminal record, he is not allowed to possess a gun. He was also living at the home of his girlfriend in Peabody, where a dog was also living, despite a direct order from the Court that he not have any contact with animals. During trial, Essex Assistant District Attorney Lynsey Legier presented recorded jail phone calls between Leger and his girlfriend as evidence that Leger had unfettered access to all of his girlfriend’s firearms, including the one found in his vehicle.
Leger also admitted to punching, choking and kicking his pit bull puppy Bryson and threatening a witness to the abuse. This incident took place in the Fall of 2016. On November 14, 2016, Leger was seen closed fist punching his dog outside the Tanner City Barber Shop on Main Street in Peabody. The witness who intervened was told by Leger that he was just disciplining his dog. In addition, Salem Police received numerous reports of Leger abusing the puppy.
Finally, Leger admitted that, while in custody in the Middleton House of Correction, he participated in a scheme to smuggle suboxone into the jail. His girlfriend, Melissa DiGaetano, 30, was also charged in connection with the scheme because she was found in possession of the suboxone which Leger conspired to smuggle. Her case is pending.
Bryson (the puppy) has been in the custody of the Animal Rescue League of Boston during the pendency of the case. Now that the case has been resolved, the ARL will be able to place him in a new permanent home.
"The Animal Rescue League of Boston is very pleased with this outcome. ARL would like to thank Lynsey Legier and the Essex County District Attorney’s Office for their dedication, patience, and resolve in this matter," Lt. Alan Borgal, ARL Director of Law Enforcement said. "Bryson (now named Luke) has been in the care of ARL for more than a year. A long-term stay in a shelter environment isn’t easy, but with continued support from our staff, Bryson has matured and made tremendous progress. With this matter behind him, he can now look forward to getting a second chance and finding a loving home."
Leger was represented by Attorney John Morris.