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Police chief avoids jail on prostie charges

MOUNT HOLLY, N.J. – Prostitution was taking place in James Leason’s presence but he did nothing to stop it, according to prosecutors.

It was a decision that ended the 31-year career of the former police chief of Runnemede, Camden County.

Leason, 56, a resident of Washington Township, Gloucester County, pleaded guilty in June to a single count of official misconduct.

A judge sentenced Leason on Friday to a year of probation and barred him from holding public office for his failure to bust a prostitution operation in Maple Shade earlier this year.

In addition, Superior Court Judge John A. Almeida ordered Leason to pay a $15,000 fine and reimburse Runnemede a total of $3,500 given to him by the borough in the form of a raise and retirement pay after his arrest.

“I’m sorry for putting my family through this, and my kids,” Leason told Almeida before he was sentenced. Leason’s bottom lip quivered and he dabbed tears from his eyes during the 20-minute proceeding.

When he pleaded guilty, Leason admitted he went to a brothel Jan. 26 at The Arbors, an apartment complex on South Lenola Road in Maple Shade, and did nothing to stop the illegal activity going on there.

Although he was not in his jurisdiction, Leason was required to arrest those involved, prosecutors said.

Leason was arrested by Maple Shade police and members of the Burlington Couty Prosecutor’s Office. Investigators said they monitored telephone calls between Leason and a police informant which led them to the apartment while Leason was there.

Just before his arrest, Leason went to the apartment to have sex with a specific woman, prosecutors said. That woman was not there, but Leason engaged in sex acts with another woman instead, prosecutors said.

The madam at the brothel, two prostitutes and two customers also were arrested, police said. The brothel had been operating since July 2003, they said.

Leason was not on duty at the time of his arrest, Runnemede officials said.

“With this self-indulgent and unlawful act, you have embarrassed yourself, your family and your profession,” Almeida told Leason. “You held a position of public trust which you abused with this self-indulgent act.”

In arguing for leniency, defense attorney Stephen G. Raymond asked Almeida to consider Leason’s exemplary public-service record.

Leason was hired as a Runnemede police officer in November 1973 and was appointed chief of the 20-officer department in January 1987, borough officials said.

He was honorably discharged from the U.S. Coast Guard, has five children and is active in his church, Raymond said.

“He had incredible service to the residents of Runnemede,” Raymond told the judge. “He can’t say no to anyone. In this particular case, he made a huge mistake he’s paying dearly for.”

In exchange for Leason’s plea, a charge of patronizing a prostitute was dropped Friday.


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