Sources: Before threatening to kill ex-wife of state official, Detroit News reporter was headed to WXYZ-TV Channel 7

Life looked good for Leonard Fleming, a sharp-dressing Detroit News reporter who brims with charisma and self-assurance.

Fleming’s coverage of city hall and its budget crisis often landed on the front page, and he built a respectable following.

Then came the breakthrough of his dreams – a reporting gig at WXYZ-TV Channel 7, sources for the station confirmed Wednesday night.

Just before Fleming was to take the job, the station learned this month that he was accused of having an affair with the ex-wife of state Treasurer Andy Dillon. But it got a lot worse: Carol Dillon received a personal protection order against the veteran reporter after she says he sent her a cell phone picture of his penis and threatened to kill her with a baseball bat.

The deal was taken off the table, and WXYZ is relieved the discovery was made in time.

Now Fleming is fighting to keep his job at the Detroit News, where some reporters and city leaders won’t be sad to see him go.

To many of those who worked with Fleming at city hall and the newspaper, he was opinionated, self-obsessed and territorial. His self-confidence came off as smugness.

“I own this town,” Fleming once told me when I covered city hall for the Free Press.

Fleming, who came to the Detroit News after being laid off from the Chicago Sun Times five years ago, also caught criticism from coworkers for refusing to be a paying member of the Detroit Newspaper Guild, which still is required to defend Fleming against discipline.
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The status of his job is in the air, but sources within the Detroit News said pressure is mounting to fire Fleming or ask for his resignation.

The Detroit News said it’s investigating the claims against Fleming, who was on vacation this week.

The allegations are serious, for one, because Fleming was closely covering Dillon’s office as it negotiated a controversial state takeover of Detroit City Hall. Fleming continued to report on Dillon’s takeover plan until at least last month, when editors learned of the affair.

We first broke the story Wednesday.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.