Crime & Courts

Greg Leon Trial: Guilty On All Counts

“He went there to kill – and he did what he intended to do.”

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After first appearing for service nearly three weeks ago, twelve Lexington County jurors quickly rendered guilty verdicts on Thursday in the murder trial of South Carolina restauranteur Gregorio M. Leon.

On Valentine’s Day seven years ago, Leon shot and killed 28-year-old Arturo Bravo after finding him nude in the back of a pickup truck with Leon’s wife, Rachel Leon. Competing theories of what led Leon to the scene of the shooting that night – and what he may have experienced prior to pulling the trigger – drove the defense and prosecution’s closing arguments on Thursday morning.

But it didn’t take long for jurors to decide which theory they accepted …

Eleventh circuit solicitor Rick Hubbard‘s closing arguments earlier this morning recapitulated nearly a week of testimony by state’s witnesses detailing the night of the shooting – as well as implicating Leon in premeditation and an attempt to elicit false testimony following the murder.

“Greg Leon already knew his wife was having an affair,” Hubbard told jurors. “He knew she had a lover, it didn’t matter if it were Arturo Bravo or the deacon of her Baptist church.”

“Any spouse has the right to be hurt, even broken, when their spouse is cheating” Hubbard added. “But we live in a country and in a state where we have two options, counseling or court.”

Hubbard argued Leon chose a different solution.

“He took steps, leading up to Valentine’s Day, knowing that he wasn’t just going to catch his wife, he was going to catch them, and his plan was to kill two people, his wife and her lover, and he succeeded with killing one person, Arturo Bravo Santos,” Hubbard said.

Judge Walton J. McLeod IV instructed jurors on the legal definition of murder – as well as the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter, which is applicable when malice does’t motivate the spontaneous killing of another.

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(Judge Walton J. McLeod IV Via:Dylan Nolan- FITSNews)

Both state and defense were adamant that this charge wasn’t applicable to Bravo, albeit for diametrically opposed reasons. Hubbard’s argument was predicated on Bravo believing his wife was cheating on him prior to the shooting – meaning Leon would necessarily be guilty of premeditated murder. Meanwhile, defense attorney Jack Swerling argued Leon’s life was threatened. If jurors believed Leon was acting in self defense, the involuntary manslaughter charge would also be inapplicable.

After explaining involuntary manslaughter, Hubbard displayed a PowerPoint presentation of the statutory requirements for self defense in South Carolina. To justify self defense, one must not bring about the violent incident if they could have predicted they would need to defend themself, one must have no other way of avoiding the danger of the situation, and one must actually believe their life is in danger.

Jurors must evaluate wether a “reasonable prudent person” would believed their life was in danger given the circumstances.

“As we prove murder, we’re disproving self defense – as we’re proving one, we’re disproving the other” Hubbard said.

Hubbard argued Leon “went there to kill, and he did what he intended to do minus one person” and drew the conclusion, not for the last time, that “self defense doesn’t apply.”

Prosecutors contended the real story began “one month before” the murders, when Leon started “searching to find out what his wife (was) up to.”

Leon’s cell phone visited a number of dating websites frequented by older adults in the weeks leading up to the murder. When asked about these searches on the stand Leon testified that he didn’t know who used his phone for those searches.

Hubbard was incredulous, “LocalMILFselfies.com … does that sound like a man who thinks his wife has a drug addiction?  And he says it must have been one of his kids … What teenager is on Match.com?”

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(Judge Walton J. McLeod IV Via:Dylan Nolan-FITSNews)

Hubbard tore into Leon’s credibility, “He blames his kids … can you believe a word he says?”

The state argued Leon’s concern that his wife was abusing drugs was feigned.

“None of this was about her,” Hubbard said “It is about him, his hurt.”

“What would any loving spouse do if they think their spouse has a problem, what would you do, talk to them!” Hubbard added. “It’s always been an affair … Always.”

Bolstering this theory were multiple public interactions between Rachel Leon and Bravo on Facebook – and other evidence the couple were cavalier in carrying out their affair.

“Rachel Leon was pretty open about this, she went on a vacation with the man, she was risking her husband find out because she was so miserable with him,” Hubbard said.

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(Arturo Bravo and Rachel Leon in Charleston Via:Dylan Nolan-FITSNews)

Hubbard seemed sympathetic to Leon’s anger.

“Here’s a fifty year old man, and his wife’s running around with a good looking twenty something,” he said.

But Hubbard said Leon should have employed a private eye to resolve the situation.

“Instead of a gun it would have been a camera that caught his wife,” he said.

Yet Leon elected to ask a friend to install a GPS tracker in his wife’s SUV.

“He has to deceive her to take that car and put that tracker on it … he is trying to find them … with that you have malice, manslaughter is out the window,” Hubbard said. “He knows he’s going to find them, he knows he’s going to catch them by surprise. Folks, that’s malice.”

Leon used the GPS to locate his wife on the night of the shooting after she failed to respond to multiple phone calls. When he saw she was in the parking lot of the local John Deere dealership he ran to his car and started driving to her location.

“He could have called his friend Eric Bland, an attorney, who definitely would have given him good advice,” Hubbard said. “He could have called 911 if he truly believed she was in danger.”

But Hubbard reiterated his position that Leon’s intervention “doesn’t have anything to do with drugs, he doesn’t want anyone else involved, this is his to handle, he wants to catch them by surprise.”

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(Leon and Bland Via:Dylan Nolan-FITSNews)

Even as he approacehed the scene Leon “had time to think what the heck am I doing – I can’t do this.”

But Hubbard said for Leon it was about “honor.”

“He’s been wronged,” the prosecutor said. “He’s taking action, its his plan – its his way. He pulls up and blocks his wife’s car, he gets out, like a man on a mission, checks to see if anyone’s around … and goes right around to the hood of the Toyota.”

Leon told investigators his wife’s scream caused him to draw his gun. Video evidence shows him looking into the truck before drawing his weapon – although what he saw inside (if he saw anything) remained a point of contention throughout the trial.

“If you don’t believe three’s a scream you stop right there, self defense is gone, and how could you believe a word out of this man’s mouth, how could you believe this man?” Hubbard said. “What rational person hears a scream and pulls out a gun and aims it at the windshield, when he can’t see whats inside?”

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(Leon and Bland Via:Dylan Nolan-FITSNews)

Gun drawn, Leon rushed to pull open the truck’s rear passenger door “What does he say when he opens that door and he discovers his wife isn’t in danger?” Leon told investigators Bravo threatened to kill him. Hubbard found this assertion ridiculous “A man who is butt naked says “I will kill you little Gregorio.“ Why would any sane man say – the woman I’m here with, her husband is here, I’m butt naked, let me get brave.”

“The one person who knows there is no weapon in that video is Arturo Bravo Santos, what is he going to reach for? A pair of pants, a little late” Hubbard hammered home.

Hubbard argued Leon’s actions after the shooting continue to imply premeditation. “He tells you, “I opened the door and I discovered it was an affair” …  folks, how does he know, if it was truly about drugs, how did he know his wife wasn’t getting raped by a drug dealer? He already knows.”

Leon testified that he asked his wife “what the fuck have you done?” before returning to his car after the shooting. Hubbard asked the jury if his testimony sounded like the words of a man who acted in self defense or like a “heart that still rages, that after all of these years still has malice.”

Hubbard replayed Leon’s damning 911 call, in which he told the dispatcher “I shot my wife and her lover … They were sitting in the car messing around and I pulled up, and I found them and I shot ‘em … I found my wife cheating on my ass, I shot them both.”

“Where’s the self defense? This is the defense of honor, thats what this case is about” Hubbard exclaimed.

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(Via:Dylan Nolan-FITSNews)


“And then we get to Maria Moreno, someone who works for him, someone he trusts.” Moreno allegedly aided Leon in an attempt to pay for false testimony against Bravo. “This is someone he can turn to, they need someone to say Arturo Bravo Santos was a violent bad guy.”

Moreno asked Enrique “Ruby” Sierra to lie to Leon’s attorneys “What they didn’t bank on is that Ruby is honest, she went to to a law enforcement agency that could have called INS and taken her out of the country, she took a risk and did the right thing, which is more than anyone can say of Greg Leon.

Moreno emphasized to Sierra the importance of testifying that Bravo always carried a gun, and gave her multiple heinous allegations to make agains the decedent, including that Bravo raped her at gunpoint while watching child pornography.

“Think about this” Hubbard told jurors “everything is aimed Arturo Bravo Santos, at making him a horrible a human being, he still has malice, he has spent all of these years assassinating his character.”

Hubbard reiterated the refrains of his case “This case is not about drugs, it is not about a husband trying to find his wife, this is a case about a man who loves himself whose honor was wronged.” He told jurors to “Tell Greg Leon you know the truth, the truth is he is guilty of Murder, he had malice in his heart when pulled the trigger and killed Mr. Santos, he is guilty of Murder.”

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(Jack Swerling Via:Dylan Nolan-FITSNews)

The defense’s closing arguments reiterated their theory that Leon didn’t suspect an affair, and that he acted in self defense when he shot Bravo.

“Despite what the state said in their closing statements, there really is no evidence” Leon knew of the affair, Swerling argued.

Swerling also reminded jurors of Bravo’s illegal immigrant status, his use of false identification, and of the multiple married women he is alleged to have had financially beneficial romantic relationships with “He was living off of women who had money and were vulnerable.”

Swerling made the case that Leon couldn’t see into the truck when he drew his gun and approached the vehicle one final time. “He could not see what the people in the back were doing.”

When Leon flung open the door “There were men’s clothes on the console, items on the seat, surely he (Bravo) was reaching for something, a weapon, he said “I’m going to kill you.””

Leon’s role in the witness tampering allegations was once again difficult for the defense to address.  Swerling suggested Maria Moreno bore most of the responsibility “The whole thing was being manipulated by Maria, and why was that being done?  She wanted to help her friend.”

After a brief recess jurors were charged and began deliberations.  After just under three hours jurors returned guilty verdicts on both the murder and weapons charges.

(Click to view)

(Eric Bland and Greg Leon Via:Dylan Nolan-FITSNews)

Two of Leon’s sons, his sister, and three of his friends testified on his behalf before McCleod decided his sentence.  Bland, one of the friends who spoke, told the court that Leon is “Without a question the hardest working businessman I have ever met” and “one of the most giving men I’ve ever met in my life.” 

One of Leon’s other friends told the court that Leon’s charity is the reason he and his family avoided foreclosure of their home.  His son Alex said his father has always been “the best dad we could ever ask for.”

The state asked that Leon not be given credit for the seven years he spent wearing an ankle monitor, reminding the court that he allegedly attempted to tamper with witnesses while on bond, adding that neglecting to consider this would “Look bad for our system.”


Judge McLeod sentenced Leon to 30 years for the murder of Arturo Bravo, with five years to be served concurrently for the associated weapons charge.  He declined to give Leon credit for time served while on bond.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Dylan Nolan is a journalist and video producer for FITSNews. He graduated from the Darla Moore School of Business with a bachelors in Accounting in 2021, and has spent his professional career attempting to shine light on corruption and institutional failure in South Carolina through his journalism. Got a tip or story idea for Dylan? Email him here. You can also engage him socially @DNolan2000.

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7 comments

Unfortunate July 6, 2023 at 5:37 pm

Unfortunate, but this is what happens when you are forced to use a system that puts your fate in the hands of twelve people who were not smart enough to get out of jury duty. Now an industrious man, who was philanthropic to his community, will likely spend his final days in prison. The wife who betrayed him and spent his fortune on an illegal alien gigolo will be free to do even more of the same. Where is the justice?

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Carla Golden Top fan July 6, 2023 at 5:51 pm

If only good guys were all good and bad guys were all bad, life would be a lot easier to comprehend.

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The Colonel Top fan July 6, 2023 at 9:11 pm

Justice was served. Leon shot a naked, unarmed man 4 times! He admitted it! He tried to get a witness to commit perjury!

What case were you watching?!?

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Unfortunate July 7, 2023 at 8:57 am

A naked, unarmed, illegal, who pressured Leon’s wife to buy him the truck he was boinking her in with Leon’s money. He should have gotten a pass on this, or at least a much reduced sentence. I would have no fear if Leon moved in next door to me. As long as I keep my hands off his old lady, there is no reason for me or anyone else to fear him.

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The Colonel Top fan July 7, 2023 at 5:25 pm

Georgio may have been an undocumented migrant (his movement into the US in the early 70s is somewhat cloudy). He was guilty of employing undocumented migrants while bribing Sheriff Jimmy Metts to cover it up. He then ratted out Metts to get a pass on his nefarious illegal immigrant employment activities.

He shot a naked, unarmed man three times, he admitted doing it and then tried to tamper with witnesses – he deserves his jail sentence.

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Carla Golden Top fan July 6, 2023 at 5:48 pm

Thanks for keeping us up to date from the courtroom Dylan!

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Justine Casis July 8, 2023 at 5:31 am

Something very strange going on in that household. Rachel in this country for decades and did not speak English. Rarely went (allowed?) out except when she was under the eye of Greg or his minions? Who knows what was going on behind closed doors? But no doubt Greg Leon is guilty of murder. His defense was very weak and made no sense. That said there is much to admire about how he made a success of his life and apparently helped others along the way.

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