Federal prosecutor to seek indictment against plane thief

Thursday, April 9, 2009 | 3:33 p.m. CDT; updated 4:10 p.m. CDT, Thursday, April 9, 2009

ST. LOUIS — Federal prosecutors will seek a grand jury indictment against the man accused of stealing a plane in Canada and landing more than seven hours later along a Missouri highway, and they want him jailed until his case is resolved.

Adam Dylan Leon, 31, faces two federal charges for allegedly stealing a single-engine Cessna 172 on Monday from his Ontario flight school, flying erratically over seven states while being tailed by F-16s, then landing along a desolate southern Missouri highway near the town of Ellsinore.

In court filings, Assistant U.S. Attorney D. John Sauer said Leon should remain jailed because he's a risk to the community and a risk to flee. A detention hearing is Friday morning before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas C. Mummert.

A preliminary hearing also would be Friday, but Sauer wants it continued to April 17 so the government can go to a grand jury and seek an indictment. Sauer said in the court filing the case will be presented to the grand jury on April 15. If an indictment is returned, the preliminary hearing would not be necessary.

Leon has been appointed a federal public defender, Lucy Liggett. Phone and e-mail messages left with her were not returned. Leon remains jailed in St. Louis.

The FBI and Missouri State Highway Patrol have said Leon told them he was trying to commit suicide, hoping U.S. fighter jets would shoot him down.

According to the federal complaint, Leon told the FBI he "has not felt like himself lately" and he recently was being treated by a psychiatrist.

Leon was born Yavuz Berke in Turkey before moving to Canada, changing his name, and becoming a naturalized citizen. He was described as a good student and well-liked at the Confederation College Flight School in Thunder Bay, Ontario, where the plane was stolen.

Leon could face up to 10 years in prison if convicted and would serve any sentence in the U.S. before being deported, U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway has said.

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