Atlantic City Criminal Lawyer

James J. Leonard Jr., Esq.


James J. Leonard Jr. began his career in Criminal Law in 1999 with a two-year internship at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, where he successfully prosecuted hundreds of cases involving adult and juvenile offenders. Upon graduating from the prestigious Villanova University School of Law in 2001, Mr. Leonard became an associate at a prominent Camden County law firm specializing in criminal defense work. In 2002, Mr. Leonard was one of three attorneys on a defense team that successfully represented two defendants in separate capital murder cases, one in Camden County Superior Court, the other in Burlington County Superior Court.

In October of 2002, Mr. Leonard left the firm and started his own practice, the Leonard Law Group at the age of 28, specializing in aggressive criminal defense litigation. In 2003, Mr. Leonard won two high-profile jury trials that established his reputation as a highly skilled trial attorney and made him one of the most sought after criminal defense attorneys in the State of New Jersey.

In one case, Mr. Leonard represented a Camden man who was charged with possession of a firearm and distribution of heroin in a school zone. In the other, Mr. Leonard represented a member of the notorious Pagans Motorcycle Club who was charged with armed robbery and various other offenses. The defendant, a convicted murderer, was facing a life sentence if he was found guilty on the armed robbery charge.

In both cases, the juries found each defendant not guilty of all charges.

Later that year, Mr. Leonard successfully represented a woman who was charged with aggravated assault and weapons offenses after allegedly stabbing a man outside an Atlantic City casino. An Atlantic County Superior Court Judge found the woman not guilty by reason of insanity.

In 2004, Mr. Leonard successfully represented Vincent McDaniels, a/k/a Omar Salaam, the reputed former head of the Salaam’s, a notorious Atlantic City drug gang. Mr. McDaniels was charged as a drug kingpin in a massive 154-count indictment and faced life in prison if he was convicted at trial. Mr. Leonard aggressively negotiated a plea bargain for Mr. McDaniels and had 152 of the 154 charges dismissed, including the kingpin charge and Mr. McDaniels was released from prison after serving four years and six months.

In 2005, Mr. Leonard opened an office on North Carolina Avenue in Atlantic City, the city where he was born and where his father served honorably as an Atlantic City Police Officer for more than 30 years before his retiring in 2004. Later that year, Mr. Leonard’s services were retained by Grammy Award winning rap star Kimberly “Lil’ Kim” Jones to help her secure an early release from the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, where she was serving a sentence following a perjury conviction in New York. On July 3, 2006, the federal Bureau of Prisons gave Ms. Jones an early release.

Shortly after her release, Mr. Leonard was filmed interacting with Ms. Jones inside her home for her television series Countdown to Lockdown / Season Two. Mr. Leonard would go on to successfully represent Ms. Jones in a subsequent criminal investigation launched by the US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, New York stemming from a shooting incident allegedly involving a former associate of Ms. Jones, who was alleged to have fired shots at rap superstar Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson outside a hotel in Jersey City. No charges were filed against Ms. Jones and she would go on to appear as a contestant on the popular reality television show Dancing With the Stars.

In April of 2007, Mr. Leonard was retained to represent a Salem County man named Terry Oleson, who was suspected of murdering four prostitutes and dumping their bodies in a drainage ditch behind a stretch of seedy motels on the Black Horse Pike in West Atlantic City in November of 2006. Dubbed by reporters as a serial killer and given the moniker “The Black Horse Strangler”, the Oleson case received international attention and Mr. Leonard was profiled on 48 Hours, America’s Most Wanted, Good Morning America and in print and digital publications all over the world, including the New York Times.

Mr. Leonard aggressively fought for Mr. Oleson’s release from jail, telling the Press of Atlantic City that Oleson’s bail was “a ransom”. Mr. Oleson was eventually freed from jail, and murder charges against him have never been filed. Mr. Oleson told one Philadelphia reporter, “This man right here, Jimmy Leonard, he saved my life.”

Almost ten years later, Oleson remains a free man.

Mr. Leonard would go on to successfully defend Oleson against charges filed by a prostitute who claims Oleson assaulted her and threatened to kill her after he allegedly confessed to her that he had killed the four women in West Atlantic City. Outside the courthouse after Oleson had been cleared of assault, Mr. Leonard told reporters that the woman, an admitted crack addict / prostitute, was “the personification of reasonable doubt.”

In October 2007, Mr. Leonard was retained to act as an advisor to Atlantic City City Council President William “Speedy” Marsh after the city’s Mayor Bob Levy disappeared. “The Case of the Missing Mayor” became a national news story and a source of great embarrassment for the City of Atlantic City. Several weeks later Bob Levy would resign in disgrace and Mr. Leonard stood proudly by William Marsh’s side as he was sworn in as the new Mayor of Atlantic City.

In early 2008, Mr. Leonard was retained to represent a North Jersey man named Edwin “Money” Spears, described by then Attorney General Anne Milgram as a “5 Star General” and boss of the Nine-Trey Bloods street-gang in a racketeering case that involved both members of the Bloods and members of the Lucchese Crime Family. In April of that year, Mr. Leonard would be retained to represent a Philadelphia man named Anthony Nicodemo, described by the FBI as a solider in the Bruno / Scarfo La Cosa Nostra Crime Family and a close associate of jailed mob leader Joseph “Skinny Joey” Merlino on racketeering charges stemming from a $60 million-dollar gambling / loan sharking ring that was operating inside the Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City.

After twelve-months of aggressive plea negotiations, Mr. Leonard was able to convince the Judge to suspend Mr. Nicodemo’s 5 Year sentence over the vehement objection of the Deputy Attorney General and Mr. Nicodemo was not sent to state prison. The case would be featured on Philly.Com’s Mob Talk hosted by Philadelphia Inquirer crime reporter George Anastasia.

Also in April of 2008, Mr. Leonard was retained to represent a Georgia man named Vicente Perez, who fatally stabbed a man following a dispute inside the poker room at the Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino. Mr. Leonard was successful in asserting a self-defense claim and Mr. Perez was able to plead guilty to Manslaughter, for which he received a sentence of 5 Years in state prison.

In January of 2009, Mr. Leonard founded and created The Boardwalk Journal, a monthly lifestyle magazine that features editorial about the happenings in and around Atlantic City and content relevant to life at the Jersey Shore. The inaugural issue featured Donald Trump on the cover and subsequent issues have featured profiles on political figures such as Governor Chris Christie, Senate President Steve Sweeney, retired State Senator Bill Gormley and political powerbroker George Norcross.

Other individuals featured / profiled in The Boardwalk Journal included the late boxing great Arturo “Thunder” Gatti, the iconic Tony Bennett, reality television star Kim Kardashian, Philadelphia based disc jockey Jerry “The Geator with the Heator” Blavat, film star Chazz Palminteri and dozens of other local / national and international personalities.

Mr. Leonard served as the Publisher and Chief Executive Officer of The Boardwalk Journal for more than five years, overseeing the production of sixty issues between 2009 and 2014.

In November 2009, Mr. Leonard successfully defended a man charged with murder in Camden County Superior Court. After a three-week jury trial, Mr. Leonard's client was found not guilty of committing the murder. In May of 2010, Mr. Leonard was retained to represent Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., son of jailed Philadelphia / Atlantic City mob boss Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo on racketeering charges based out of Morris County. Later that year, Mr. Leonard was retained by Joe and Melissa Gorga to handle their contract negotiations with the Bravo TV network regarding the Gorga’s joining the popular reality television show The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Rich and Kathy Wakile, who like the Gorga’s, joined The Real Housewives of New Jersey, also retained Mr. Leonard, as did Rosie Pierri, another RHONJ personality.

Mr. Leonard has appeared in several episodes of The Real Housewives of New Jersey.

In December 2010, Mr. Leonard was retained by former Jersey Shore star Angelina Pivarnick, to represent her on charges stemming from an altercation inside an Atlantic City casino nightclub, charges that Mr. Leonard ultimately got dismissed. Mr. Leonard successfully represented another personality from MTV’s Jersey Shore on criminal charges in Miami, Florida and successfully negotiated several million dollars’ worth of television contracts with MTV on behalf of this client.

In September 2011, Mr. Leonard successfully represented a man who was charged in the United States District Court, District of New Jersey with embezzling $458,000.00 from a sitting United States Congressman over a period of 15 years. Under federal sentencing guidelines, the man faced a sentence of 46-57 months, but Mr. Leonard filed an application with the Court seeking a downward departure and the motion was granted. The defendant received a sentence of 30 months.

In 2012, Mr. Leonard was featured prominently in the best-selling true crime book Mafia Prince: Inside America’s Most Violent Crime Family And The Bloody Fall of La Cosa Nostra, written by former Philadelphia / Atlantic City mob underboss Philip “Crazy Phil” Leonetti, the nephew of jailed for life mob boss Nicodemo “Little Nicky” Scarfo.

In 2014, Mr. Leonard was retained to represent Real Housewives of New Jersey star Teresa Giudice in the weeks before she was scheduled to report to prison to begin serving a 15 month sentence. Mr. Leonard remains Ms. Giudice primary counsel, handling all of her legal and business affairs. Since working with Ms. Giudice, Mr. Leonard has appeared in People, US Weekly, The Wall Street Journal and on television programs like Good Morning America and E News.

In 2015, Mr. Leonard was nominated by his peers as a Super Lawyer at the age of 41.

While the scope of Mr. Leonard’s practice and his reputation have evolved significantly over the last decade, but the primary focus is and always will be aggressive criminal defense litigation for defendants charged in Juvenile Court, Municipal Court, Superior Court and Federal Court throughout the State of New Jersey.

He appears daily in courtrooms all over the State on behalf of individuals charged with crimes ranging from careless driving to murder. No matter how big or small the case, Mr. Leonard is a passionate and tireless advocate for his clients.