FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – With the holiday season approaching, Jimmie Leeks said he is grateful to be a free man again. He said his life would have been ruined had it not been for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department detectives who investigated his landlord's false allegation that he had attacked him with a machete.
During the investigation, Quinn Atkinson told detectives Leeks' landlord, Michael Blanchar, told him he had come up with an idea to get rid of Leeks, whom he didn't want living in his Fort Lauderdale home's efficiency anymore.
Atkinson, Blanchar's neighbor, said Blanchar had talked about coming up with a plot to get Leeks out of his property and wanted to "plant a machete and shoot Mr. Leeks," according to a supplemental report detectives added to the initial arrest report.
Blanchar, who has a court record of prior conflicts with tenants, didn't shoot Leeks, a 48-year-old convicted felon. His statement to police officers landed Leeks in jail a day before Thanksgiving. Without Atkinson's statement at the time, it was Blanchar's word against Leeks.
"It cost me," Leeks said. "I've been slandered."
With superficial wounds treated at his home, Blanchar told police officers Leeks had "sliced him" with a machete, and he had been forced to use his cane to defend himself. Leeks was facing a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon.
Broward County prosecutor Ori Silver decided the state does not have "a good-faith basis" to file charges against Leeks, according to a closeout memorandum from the state attorney's office.
Prosecutors did not charge Blanchar with filing a false report. Records show Atkinson did not want to be involved any further and declined to give a sworn statement. Blanchar also declined to give a sworn statement.
Blanchar's neighbors said they had noticed his mental state had been in decline. Blanchar's attorney, Leah Mayersohn, said the wounds were evidence of the attack because Blanchar would not harm himself.
"The family is in the process of relocating Mr. Blanchar, who is elderly. It will not be feasible for Mr. Blanchar to have to come back to Florida for court to have to testify, so he has declined to participate," Mayersohn wrote. "I think Mr. Blanchar was very lucky that Leeks didn't severely injure or kill him."
Blanchar told officers that Leeks owed him money, and he asked Leeks to pay up before the attack. He also said he felt weak and officers took his cane as evidence, and he was having difficulty walking without one.
Leeks said he never attacked Blanchar, nor had he ever seen the machete he was accused of using to attack him. He was an innocent man who was handcuffed, interrogated, put in jail, humiliated in public and paraded around in court in front of cameras, he said.
"I've been in trouble with the law. Yes, I've had my past, but I'm a hard-working man," Leeks said. "Charges are being dropped and I'm being cleared, but it's sad that I had to go though all of this."
Leeks, who was released from prison in 2013, wants to put it all behind him and is determined to stay away from jail and prison. He said he is still looking for a new place to live.
He also said he is blessed to not have lost his job, which he said is all he has to get back on his feet this new year.