Sex scandal involving Detroit News reporter not what it appears, friends say

By all accounts, it was a casual, regrettable fling.

Detroit News reporter Leonard Fleming had a girlfriend at the time and was reporting on state Treasurer Andy Dillon last year when he also was sleeping with the Democrat’s ex-wife, Carol Owens Dillon, according to friends familiar with the relationship.

The ethical blunder was serious enough, but the Detroit News was not prepared to handle word that Fleming was accused in a personal protection order of threatening to kill Carol Dillon with a baseball bat.

In interviews with the Motor City Muckraker yesterday, friends of Fleming said the accusations are outrageous and insulting because

Carol Dillon is the one who became irate and demanding when the reporter wouldn’t leave his girlfriend. They said Fleming, a gentle and reasonable professional, just wanted out without any drama.

“She wanted Leonard to herself,” a friend of Fleming’s said. “He didn’t want that kind of relationship.”

Carol Dillon didn’t return messages seeking comment.

The relationship is 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. Fleming also is accused of sending Carol Dillon a picture of his penis.

Friends of Fleming, whose wife died about three years ago, said they felt compelled to speak out because no one came to his defense when the personal protection order came to light last week. Allegations in some personal protection orders are just that – unfounded claims.

The Detroit New has declined to comment on the situation, other than to say Fleming will no longer be covering city hall.

Editors continue to investigate the claims in the personal protection order.

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Steve Neavling is an investigative journalist and former city hall reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Living on the city’s east side, Neavling explores corruption, civil liberties and the underbelly of an oft-misunderstood city.

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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.