County Executive's Trial Starts in Annapolis
Jury selection begins on Wednesday for the trial of John Leopold, who faces a five-count indictment.
Jury selection begins Wednesday in Anne Arundel Circuit Court in Annapolis in the trial of Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold.
The Pasadena Republican faces four counts of misconduct in office and one count of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary, stemming from a grand jury indictment in March 2012.
The grand jury indictment accused Leopold of using county police officers assigned to him for a security detail for a range of inappropriate tasks, including driving him to various locations for sexual liaisons with a county employee, keeping his live-in girlfriend in the dark about his mistress, compiling information on political opponents and driving him around the county to remove his opponent's campaign signs during the 2010 election.
The county executive is also accused of asking an aide to run personal errands for him and even to empty a urinary catheter bag Leopold wore strapped to his leg after back surgery in February 2010.
The accusations over Leopold's alleged "enemies list" has lead to a separate lawsuit filed in December by the American Civil Liberties Union to release the documents on 11 people who believe files were compiled against them.
"I think a lot of this is going to depend on who is going to testify and what are they going to say," said Alan Legum, an Annapolis attorney. "I don’t know that anybody can prejudge a case like this."
Legum represents Carl Snowden, one of the people Leopold allegedly compiled a dossier on.
Legum said one thing he will be watching for is whether former Anne Arundel County Police Chief James Teare will testify.
Teare resigned as police chief in August which ended an investigation by state prosecutor Emmet Davitt into whether Teare could be charged in connection to Leopold's case.
The indictment against Leopold alleges that several officers "reported their concerns regarding Leopold" to Teare, "but no effective action was taken by the chief."
Leopold is the first sitting Anne Arundel County Executive to stand trial on criminal charges while still in office.
If convicted, Anne Arundel County Council can vote to remove him from office rather than letting him fill out his term, which ends in 2014. A vote to remove Leopold would require the support of five of the council's seven members.
"With Leopold his unique quality is that he really has never developed an alternative career. He’s been in politics most of his adult life," said Dan Nataf, director of the center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College. "I don’t think he can conceive of himself in any other way but in office."
Leopold spent nearly two decades in Maryland's House of Delegates, and he served in Hawaii's legislature before that. He's term limited in his position as county executive, and Leopold, who is 69, has yet to announce whether he plans to retire from politics.
If the Pasadena Republican decides to run for office again in Maryland's 31st District, Nataf said it would be an uphill climb.
"It’s hard to gauge the staying power of Leopold in District 31," Nataf said. "He benefits from a lot of old timers who have known him for a long time and have developed a lot of rapport with him."
One caveat is that the 31st is one of the few safe Republican districts in Maryland, so it attracts a lot of competition from what Nataf calls "strong Republican candidates."
Leopold may not hold enough political capital in 2014 to mount a successful campaign even if he is exonerated.
One thing Nataf was sure of: "If he’s convicted, I think his career is over."