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Anne Arundel County Executive Leopold Convicted
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January 30, 2013
Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold was convicted yesterday on misconduct charges stemming from the use of police and county employees for personal and political errands. WYPR’s Joel McCord reports.
Joel McCord: The charges against Leopold were nothing if not tawdry.
He used his executive protection detail to chauffer him back and forth to liaisons with his mistress in a bowling alley parking lot and to keep the mistress and his live in girl friend from running into each other when he was in the hospital recuperating from back surgery.
He cheated the county out of some $10,000 in police overtime pay by having two officers from his protection detail on duty when he was in the hospital specifically to keep the women separate.
He ordered his police detail to put up campaign signs during his run for re-election in 2010 and to tear down those of his opponent; to pick up and deliver campaign contributions and to keep dossiers on political enemies.
He even ordered police and other county employees to change his urinary catheter bag after the surgery.
Leopold’s lawyers conceded most of those points, but argued they weren’t illegal or that they stemmed from a case of bad judgment and weren’t worthy of criminal prosecution.
Judge Dennis M. Sweeney, who heard the case without a jury, agreed to a point. Anyone who has been in public office as long as Leopold has –eight years in the Hawaii legislature, 18 in the Maryland General Assembly and one term as County Executive—had to have known that ordering police to participate in his campaign was illegal.
And requiring underlings to change his catheter bag was “outrageous, egregious and wildly beyond any authority” Leopold possessed, Sweeney ruled.
Leopold, who stood with his hands clasped behind his back as Sweeney read his verdict, said later he was “humbled by the decision.” His lawyer, Bruce Marcus, said they were disappointed in the verdict.
Bruce Marcus: It has been our position from the outset that the conduct complained of here represented poor judgment as opposed to criminal conduct.
McCord: He added, however, they respect the court’s decision. State Prosecutor Emmett Davitt told reporters outside the courthouse he was pleased, even though he only got convictions on two of the five counts against Leopold.
Emmett Davitt: It was a difficult case. There were several legal issues, not just factual issues, and as a result getting a conviction on those two particular charges is satisfying. We’re very pleased with that.
McCord: Carl Snowden, the former civil rights director for the state attorney general’s office w as among those Leopold ordered police to spy on.
Carl Snowden: What this court decision does is reaffirm that no man is above the law, that Mr. Leopold attempted to do what Richard Nixon did 40 years ago, which is to create political files on people for political purposes. And the court found that was illegal and using police officers for that purpose was illegal.
McCord: Snowden said he will file a multimillion dollar suit against Leopold because of the police spying. Joanna Conti was the Democrat who ran against Leopold in 2010 and whose signs were torn down. She said she was relieved.
Joanna Conti: This has really restored my faith in the Democratic process and now it’s up to the county council to decide what to do, and personally I believe Anne Arundel County deserves a leader that we can all feel proud of.
McCord: Upon conviction Leopold was suspended from office. The County Council has scheduled an emergency meeting this afternoon to take up the issue and could vote to remove him from office as early as Monday. Judge Sweeney is to set a sentencing date by the end of the week. I’m Joel McCord, reporting in Annapolis for 88.1, WYPR.
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