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John Leopold to Serve Minimum 30 Days in Jail
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March 14, 2013
by Joel McCord
Convicted former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold was led out of court in handcuffs today to spend at least the next month behind bars. Judge Dennis Sweeney, who in January found Leopold guilty of abusing his authority by having his security detail and staff perform personal and political errands, said that at least some jail time was necessary in this case.
He sentenced Leopold to two years in jail with all but 60 days suspended. The first 30 days are to be spent in the Anne Arundel County Detention Center and the remaining time could be under house arrest. Sweeney also placed Leopold on five years’ probation, fined him $100,000, and ordered him to perform 400 hours of community service.
Sweeney said the sentence should tell other public officials that “if you violate the law in this area in a serious way you will be hand-cuffed, led from a courtroom and spend time in a jail cell.”
The sentence was tougher than State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt had recommended. Davitt suggested no jail time because of Leopold’s age—he’s 70—and ill health—he suffers from back and urinary tract problems. Still, Davitt said, he was not surprised.
“We didn’t know how that would go down, but based on the findings the court made and based on the facts of the case I think it does send a very powerful and important message.”
He said he hopes that after the sentencing Anne Arundel County can move on.
“That the County Executive’s office can again be an institution of public integrity, public service, rather than a den of depravity, which it appeared it had degenerated to over the last few years.”
Leopold’s conviction stems from orders to county employees and his security detail to collect campaign contributions and to put up his signs and tear down opponents’ signs. He also ordered his former appointments secretary, Patti Medlin, to empty the catheter bag he wore for months after back surgery.
Sweeney called those actions “predatory and cruel” and said they displayed an “overbearing arrogance and sense of entitlement.”
But Sweeney cleared Leopold of misconduct charges that stemmed from his having his security detail drive him to meet his mistress in a bowling alley parking lot outside of Annapolis, and keeping that woman and Leopold’s long-time companion separated while the former executive was hospitalized.
Joan Harris, a former county employee involved in a gender discrimination suit against Leopold said the sentence sends a message of vindication for her and other women who worked for Leopold.
“What we felt and what went on in the office truly did happen, that we were taken seriously and that these kinds of things will not be accepted in the workplace not only in government but in the private sector as well."
But Carol Vitek, who also worked for Leopold, was outraged. She said Judge Sweeney should be fired.
“Because they didn’t even give him the dignity of walking out without handcuffs.”
Vitek, a long-time North Anne Arundel County civic activist who worked for Leopold for 35 years, said she saw no problem with his conduct.
“All he did was ask somebody to empty a bag. And she had to do was say no. There’s just no excuse for any of this.”
She said she doesn’t believe the charges, that Leopold was one of the best county executives Anne Arundel has ever had.
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