Ardmore man arrested for possessing allegedly stolen code enforcement signs
An Ardmore man was arrested outside of City Hall Thursday for possessing around 30 allegedly stolen code enforcement signs and defacing them with anti-mask mandate messages.
Ardmore police reportedly discovered the alleged stolen property in 46-year-old Leslie Fleming’s possession shortly before the city commission met to consider a resolution requiring face coverings to be worn in all indoor public spaces.
Ardmore Police Department Capt. Claude Henry said police were made aware of the theft at around 8 a.m. Thursday morning after a city employee associated with code enforcement contacted police to make a report.
“They stated that there were approximately 30 code enforcement signs that were stolen from the back of a city-owned vehicle,” Henry said. Police began an investigation several hours prior to the city commission meeting and reportedly found that Fleming had posted about stealing the signs on Facebook.
An officer reportedly noticed Fleming approaching city hall with the signs at around 11:45 a.m. “He defaced the signs, he defaced the back of them and he posted them in the lawn of city hall,” Henry said.
The officer made contact with Fleming and questioned him about the signs. During the interview, Fleming allegedly admitted to stealing the signs from the back of the city-owned truck. At that time, he was placed under arrest for possession of stolen property.
Henry said the signs are estimated to be worth about $1.30 each, making the total amount of loss around $40. The report was submitted to the district attorney’s office and a formal charge for malicious injury to property was filed against Fleming the next day.
The charging documents accuse Fleming of maliciously damaging property by taking yard signs belonging to the city of Ardmore, defacing them with anti-mask mandate messages and placing the signs on the Ardmore City Hall lawn.
Henry said rumors circulating that Fleming was arrested due to protesting the resolution or not wearing a mask were false.
“That’s simply not the truth. That’s not what took place,” Henry said. “The facts are clear that he arrived at City Hall in possession of the stolen property and that’s what he was arrested for, not because of what was displaying on the signs or the fact that he was protesting.”
Fleming bonded out of jail a few hours after his arrest and is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 5. If found guilty, he could face up to one year of imprisonment in the county jail or a fine of up to $500, or both a fine and imprisonment.
“It’s important that people realize and understand that the Ardmore Police Department recognizes peoples’ first amendment right,” Henry said. "I know there’s a lot of citizens that feel that he was arrested simply for displaying his first amendment right and it’s just simply not true.”