A Texas man charged with five counts of child sexual assault died after a jury convicted him and he chugged a bottle of liquid in the courtroom, his lawyer said Friday.
After the first count was read on Thursday afternoon and the Denton County jury returned a guilty verdict, Edward Leclair, 57, started drinking from a plastic water bottle filled with what appeared to be clear liquid, lawyer Mike Howard said.
“I looked over and noticed him drinking,” Howard said. “His hand was shaking. At the time, I thought it was shaking because of the verdict. Then he kept drinking and drinking.”
Assistant District Attorney Jamie Beck told the Denton Record-Chronicle the liquid appeared “cloudy.” She did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
It isn’t clear what was in Leclair’s bottle.
Leclair, a former Navy mechanic and corporate recruiter, was indicted two years ago on five counts of sexual assault on a person between the age of 14 and 17. He said he was innocent of the charges, Howard said.
The conviction came after three-and-a-half hours of deliberations and Leclair faced a possible sentence that ranged from probation to 100 years, Howard said.
“With charges like these, if they find a defendant guilty a very stiff punishment is certainly possible,” Howard said.
Leclair had been out on bond during the trial and not subject to the same restrictions as someone in custody, his lawyer said.
He drank most of what was in the bottle before being remanded to a cell to await sentencing, Howard said.
Howard briefly talked to his client while he waited there, and Leclair appeared “dejected and in shell shock — all the things you would expect,” Howard said.
Minutes later, back in the courtroom, the bailiff said that Leclair was throwing up, Howard said. The jury was sent home and Leclair was taken on a gurney to the hospital.
“Forty-five minutes after the whole thing began, I was notified by the hospital that he’d been declared dead,” Howard said.
Members of the jury returned Friday and were notified of Leclair’s death. They were told it wasn’t their fault, he said.
The Tarrant County medical examiner’s office will determine the cause of death.
The Denton County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Howard said he never saw Leclair — who he described as “thoughtful” and actively involved in his defense — put anything in the bottle.
But, he added: “We weren’t looking for that. Frankly, no one was looking for that.”
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