NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro described 49-year-old Leonard Preston as a career criminal, who even after being sentenced to life in prison, got out of jail -- only to be locked up again, accused of committing a brazen home invasion in the Lower Garden District last week.
“This is an individual who has been in the criminal justice system since he was 12 years old,” Cannizzaro said.
The victim, who asked to remain anonymous, said she was terrified.
“He told me to sit down and if I moved he would do something to me. I sat there and I heard him rummaging through my apartment,” the victim said. “He asked me where the money was. I told him I didn’t have any money. He told me to be quiet."
New Orleans police said Preston stole the victims’ phone and they tracked him down a short time later using the Find my iPhone app.
Cannizzaro said he is not surprised Preston would return to crime.
“Absolutely not. This is an individual that the community must and should be protected from,” Cannizzaro said.
According to Cannizzaro, Preston’s criminal record extends over a 37-year period.
“He sort of reaches the pinnacle of his criminal activity in December and January of 1996 and 1997, when he’s involved in armed robberies, aggravated burglaries and other crimes,” he said.
Cannizzaro said that’s when Preston committed four separate crimes, involving six victims and a Criminal District Court Judge sentenced him to life in prison as an habitual offender in 1997.
“He goes before the parole board seeking to get out jail. This office opposed his parole. We indicated that in our opinion, he was still a danger to the community and we objected and strongly opposed that parole being give to him,” Cannizzaro said.
One of Preston’s victims from 1997 also appeared before the parole board, but the board still granted him parole.
Preston walked out of jail in January of 2018.
“And just last Thursday, he’s up the same sort of criminal activity again,” Cannizzaro said.
The victim and her mother hope this time, the suspected robber remains locked up.
“A lifetime of robbery and terrifying people by burglarizing their homes, yeah, he should not be on the streets again,” the victim’s mother said.
A Magistrate Judge gave Preston a $50,000, but the DA’s office filed a motion to hold him in jail.
The Board of Pardons and Parole told FOX 8 Preston was required to attend a substance abuse program for six months before he was released from prison in 2018.
They also said he had a parole officer and was required to have a job and a place to live, as well as comply with a curfew from 10 p.m. – 6 a.m.