Jason Leigh Pleads
Guilty And Apologizes
For Waco VA Standoff
By Tommy Witherspoon
Waco Tribune-Herald Staff Writer
The former Cleburne man who held authorities at bay for 14 hours after crashing his truck into the Veterans Affairs Regional Office in March apologized to the "people of Waco" on Thursday and pleaded guilty to a federal weapons violation.
Jason Leigh, 49, who had two weapons with him when he drove into the building but falsely claimed to have a bomb, pleaded guilty in Waco's U.S. District Court to possession of a firearm in a federal facility during the commission of a crime. Leigh, who will be sentenced in a few months, faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.
As he was led to court Thursday morning, Leigh asked television photographers if their "audio" was on and then said he wanted to apologize to the people of Waco for what he had done.
Leigh gained nationwide attention March 8 after he smashed his Jeep Cherokee through a sliding-glass door of the VA building at 701 Clay Ave., told authorities that he had a bomb and threatened to blow up the building unless $1 million was placed in a Swiss bank account, with former President Jimmy Carter administering the fund.
Leigh, who moved to Denton shortly before the incident, portrayed himself as a Vietnam War veteran and a former member of the elite Navy SEALS. Both claims proved to be false. Leigh also has said that he has seen a UFO over a golf course in Cleburne and has falsely claimed to have a doctorate in philosophy.
He said he staged the 14-hour standoff with police to rally attention for the plight of homeless veterans and out of frustration over his dealings with government bureaucracy.
After he peacefully ended his standoff with police by surrendering, he was sent to a federal medical facility in Springfield, Mo., where he underwent psychological testing to determine his competency to stand trial. Authorities found a .45-caliber pistol in his vehicle and a Winchester .30-.30-caliber rifle inside the building. Officials found no explosives.
During his brief court appearance, Leigh told U.S. District Judge Walter S. Smith Jr. that he did not intend to use the weapons when he drove through the doors and into the building. The judge explained that his intent was not at issue, likening his position to the robber who has no intention of harming anyone but who flashes a gun during a bank heist.