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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

District of Columbia

For Immediate Release

April 19, 2012

Ronald C. Machen Jr., United States Attorney

Contact: Public Affairs
(202) 252-6933

North Carolina Man Indicted on Federal Charges in Assault Against Ambassador, Fires at Gabonese Embassy

Defendant Was Arrested After Demonstration Turned Violent

WASHINGTON - Leon Obame, 44, of Raleigh, N.C., was indicted today on federal charges stemming from two arsons in 2009 at the Gabonese Embassy and a 2011 assault against the country's ambassador, U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr. announced.

Obame has been in custody since his arrest Dec. 9, 2011 during a demonstration at the Gabonese Embassy in which he allegedly struck the ambassador. He earlier was indicted on a charge of assault against a foreign official for that attack.

Today, a grand jury returned a superseding indictment in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In addition to the earlier assault charge, the superseding indictment adds charges in connection with the fires at the embassy in Northwest Washington. The new charges include two counts each of arson and damage to property occupied by a foreign government. According to the indictment, Obame set one fire on Aug. 30, 2009 at the embassy, which is located in the 2000 block of 20th Street NW. He set a second fire on Dec. 25, 2009, the indictment alleges. No one was injured in either of the blazes.

The assault allegedly took place on Dec. 9, 2011 at the embassy’s temporary location, in the 1600 block of Connecticut Avenue NW. That morning, Obame allegedly punched the ambassador, Michael Moussa-Adamo, knocking him to the ground.

If convicted, Obame faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the charge of assault against a foreign official, up to five years in prison for each count of damage to property occupied by a foreign government, and up to 20 years in prison on each arson count.

An arraignment date will be set for Obame on the new charges. He earlier pleaded not guilty to the assault offense.

An indictment is merely a formal charge that a defendant has committed a violation of criminal laws and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until, and unless, proven guilty.

This case is being investigated by the District of Columbia Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, the Washington Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Diplomatic Security Service. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Frederick W. Yette and Patrick Martin of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia.