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Dr. Robert Leonard


Professor Leonard is Chair of Department and Director of the Forensic Linguistics Project at Hofstra University. Leonard’s linguistic specialty of Forensic Linguistics applies the science of linguistic investigation to issues of U.S. law. Forensic Linguistics augments legal analysis by applying rigorous, scientifically accepted principles of analysis to legal evidence like contracts, letters, confessions, and recorded speech.

Dr. Leonard has been qualified as an Expert in Linguistics, under Frye and under Daubert, in State Courts in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Montana, New York, Nevada and Pennsylvania and in Federal District Court in Newark, New Jersey. He is the only Forensic Linguist to have been admitted to the Expert Panel of the 18B Assigned Counsel Plan of the City of New York.

Dr. Leonard’s language consulting clients have included the FBI, Pennsylvania State Police Criminal Investigation Assessment Unit , NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force, New Jersey Office of Attorney General, US Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of NY, attorney for the Canadian Prime Minister, New Yorker Magazine, ABC-TV's Investigative Unit, and law firms in the US, Canada, and Europe that specialize in both civil and criminal cases. He has trained FBI and international agents in Forensic Linguistic techniques at the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit-1 (Counter-terrorism and Threat Assessment) headquarters in Quantico, and has participated with the FBI to give training in Quantico and NY to U.S. Secret Service, NYPD, U.S. Park Police, National Park Service, CIA, New Jersey State Park Police, New Jersey State Troopers, Dept. of Homeland Security, Federal Reserve Police, UN, FBI-NYFO, and ATF. At Hofstra University, he teaches a special graduate section of Forensic Linguistics for FBI Supervisory Special Agents.

Dr. Leonard has recently given invited lectures at Columbia University’s Institute for Social and Economic Research, Georgetown University’s Linguistics Seminar, the Center for Modern Forensic Practice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Aston University’s Centre for Forensic Linguistics In England, and has twice been a featured speaker at the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals at their worldwide meeting in California. He delivered the plenary address at the 2006 Ohio Attorney General’s Conference on Law Enforcement, and addresses groups such as the North Shore-LIJ medical association, and the Nassau County Bar Association. In 2009 he was named the Hofstra College Distinguished Teacher of the Year.

Dr. Leonard has consulted in some well-known cases such as the Taye Diggs-Idina Menzel arson threat letters, the McGuire “suitcase” murder (in which he prepared testimony to bolster the FBI expert), the Alvarez spy case (in which he prepared testimony against FBI interrogators), the Hummert murder (about which Forensic Files filmed “A Tight Leash”), and the John Karr episode of the JonBenet Ramsey murder (in which Leonard’s findings presaged those of the DNA tests: no evidence of links.)

He is a member of the International Association of Forensic Linguists, Leonard has testified and consulted for both prosecution and defense in criminal cases of murder, espionage, and other felonies, and in civil cases of plagiarism, libel, malpractice, trademark infringement, and the meaning of contracts.

Media: Leonard has been interviewed on language by the New York Times, Washington Times, USA Today, WCBS and WINS Newsradios, the New York Daily News, Newsday, the Associated Press, ABC-TV’s Eyewitness News, and radio stations throughout the US and Canada; interviews have additionally appeared in the Dallas Morning News, Mainichi Daily News (Japan), New York Law Journal, Washington Post, and on WNBC, MSNBC, and CNN.

Writer Kathy Reichs, forensic anthropologist and producer of the TV series Bones (based on her life) includes a character, Rob Potter, based on Leonard in her recent Temperance Brennan novel, the bestseller “Bones to Ashes.”

Court TV’s Hollywood Heat filmed a special segment on him, and an episode of Forensic Files, “A Tight Leash,” features him and his testimony in the Hummert murder case tried in 2006, as does a “Solved” show on Discovery Channel. (See Media Section) 

Education: A Fulbright Fellow for his Ph.D. research, Leonard received his B.A. from Columbia College, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated with honors, and his M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Columbia Graduate School, where he was a Faculty Fellow.

In the arts: Dr. Leonard may well be the only Fulbright Fellow to have performed at Woodstock; and one of probably a very few people who have worked with both the FBI and the Grateful Dead. While in college he co-founded and led the rock group Sha Na Na, and with them opened for Jimi Hendrix at the Woodstock Festival. Hendrix had recruited Sha Na Na to Woodstock. Leonard appears in the recent documentary “The Road to Woodstock” introducing the retrospective DVD “Jimi Hendrix Live at Woodstock.” Leonard also performed on television's Tonight Show, at the Fillmores East and West, and in the recently released “Festival Express” film with Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead.

Field Work: In addition to his work in forensic linguistics, Leonard researched and worked for a total of eight years in Africa and Southeast Asia, living in traditional tribal societies, Islamic societies, and Confucian
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