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Robert A. Leonard

Professor of Comparative Literature, Languages, and Linguistics


Degrees

PHD, 1982, Columbia University; MA, 1973, Columbia University; MPH, 1973, Columbia University; BA, 1970, Columbia University


Bio

Dr. Robert Leonard (PhD, Columbia) is Professor of Linguistics and Director of the Hofstra Graduate Program in Linguistics: Forensic Linguistics; the innovative Forensic Linguistics Death Penalty Innocence Project, a joint venture with Hofstra Law School; and the Institute for Forensic Linguistics, Threat Assessment and Strategic Analysis.

Leonard was recruited by the FBI’s BAU—the Behavioral Analysis Unit—to help train their agents in forensic linguistic techniques, work on cases, and advise on their Communicated Threat Assessment Database (CTAD). The British government recruited him in the run-up to the London Olympics. He was Apple’s linguist in their trademark suits against Amazon and Microsoft. Other clients include Facebook, the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force, and the Prime Minister of Canada.

The New Yorker magazine calls Leonard "One of the foremost language detectives in the country." (A direct link to the New Yorker article excerpted above is at http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2012/07/23/words-on-trial) Wikipedia’s bio of him is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_A._Leonard. Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acHg0L5ky30 to watch a 4:24 video clip of Leonard discussing forensic linguistics for Investigation Discovery Channel.

Leonard’s testimony proved pivotal in investigating and prosecuting several high-profile cases, including death threats to judges and members of Congress, the JonBenet Ramsey murder, and the triple homicide of the Coleman family in Illinois. In another case, as the New York Times wrote of Leonard, "His consultation on the murder of Charlene Hummert, a 48-year-old Pennsylvania woman who was strangled in 2004, helped put her killer in prison. Mr. Leonard determined, through [analysis of] two letters of confession by a supposed stalker and a self-described serial killer, that the actual author was Ms. Hummert's spouse."

Leonard and his Hofstra Forensic Linguistic student interns have worked on many exoneration cases, reanalyzing language evidence such as confessions and wiretaps that were used to convict defendants of murder and other serious crimes. They have also helped prosecutors track and prosecute murderers in both cold-case and ongoing investigations.

In addition to being an expert in forensic linguistics, Dr. Leonard has in the past received much attention for having been a rock star in the '60s and '70s as the founding leader of the group Sha Na Na. As vocalist, he and his group opened for their friend Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock. Rock 'n' roll ignited his interest in forensic linguistics – analyzing the group's recording contract, he proved they were not receiving money due them. Dr. Leonard left the music business for his Fulbright Fellowship and a PhD from Columbia.



Publications


Recent Courses Taught

Course Title Level
CRM 190 INTERNSHIP IN CRIMINOLOGY Undergraduate
LING 181 INTENSIVE FORENSIC LINGUISTICS Undergraduate
LING 192 INTERNSHIP IN LINGUISTICS Undergraduate
LING 220 US INVEST & LIT APP FORNSC LIN Graduate
LING 221 LINGUISTIC FIELD METHODS Graduate
LING 230 MULTINATL INVST & APP FOR LING Graduate
LING 239 LANG&THE LAW: LANG AS EVIDENCE Graduate
LING 281S SWAHILI AND BANTU LINGUISTICS Graduate
LING 290 INTRNSHP IN FORENSIC LINGSTCS Graduate
SWAH 001 ELEMENTARY SWAHILI 1 Undergraduate
SWAH 002 ELEMENTARY SWAHILI 2 Undergraduate
SWAH 003 INTERMED SWAHILI 1 Undergraduate
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