ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – A man in jail for fatally shooting of suspected diaper theft withdrew his plea in court Monday.
An Orange County judge allowed Lonnie Leonard, 51, to take back his plea of no contest meaning he will soon stand trial after he told the court he wasn’t satisfied with his attorney.
Leonard said he never fully understood the plea deal when he accepted it earlier this year.
“I need somebody to come over and talk to me about it, and Mr. Tumarkin didn’t do that,” Leonard said in court about trying to understand how much time he could face.
State prosecutors say Leonard shot and killed 19-year old Arthur Adams, a suspected shoplifter, outside of an Orange County Walmart in February of 2017.
Orange County Sheriff’s Office officials said that four people, including Adams, were trying to steal shopping carts full of baby items, including diapers, and load them into a stolen car when a Walmart employee confronted them in the parking lot, deputies said.
Leonard said he thought Adams had a gun.
Leonard is charged with manslaughter, possession of a concealed firearm, and aggravated battery. If convicted, he could face up to 25 years in prison.
"I changed my mind. I didn’t feel good about the situation when I took the plea," said Leonard.
Leonard’s former lawyer, Daniel Tumarkin, was dismissed from the case Monday, telling the judge that he made it clear to Leonard he believed the plea deal would’ve likely been Leonard’s best option.
“It’s getting to the point where I can’t represent him, but it’ll be beneficial where he’ll at least listen to what I have to say,” Tumarkin said.
The family of the man killed is still fighting for justice. News 6 spoke with family of Arthur Adams shortly after he was killed.
“Did he have a gun on gun? No," Adams’ brother Jeffrey said. "It’s a lie. He’s trying to cover up what he did and it’s not going to work.”
Leonard maintains that he’s innocent. A pre-trial and stand your ground motion hearing is scheduled for Feb. 27.
Leonard must report back to the court in two weeks to discuss the status of his new lawyer.