UPDATE (6:15 p.m.)—A Circuit Court judge in Annapolis found Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold guilty of two counts of criminal misconduct in office on Tuesday.
Chief Administrative Officer John Hammond is now serving as acting Anne Arundel county executive as a result of the suspension of Leopold from his duties.
Sweeney acquitted Leopold of three other charges.
Leopold faced a five-count grand jury indictment that included four counts of misconduct in office and one count of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary.
The Anne Arundel County Council is expected to vote on Leopold's removal from office as soon as Monday.
Prosecutors of the case claimed that Leopold misused his security detail—which is paid for by the county—by ordering the officers to collect campaign donations, distribute campaign signs, empty Leopold's catheter bag of urine, drive him to sexual encounters in a bowling alley parking lot, pick up his dry cleaning and drop off the morning paper at his home.
The defense did not dispute some of the facts of the case but argued that the accusations at worst amounted to Leopold being a bad boss who may have spent county money unwisely by leaning on his security detail while recovering from two rounds of back surgery in 2010.
Sweeney found Leopold guilty of the first count of the indictment, which dealt with the use of Leopold's executive protection officers as an arm of his 2010 re-election campaign.
"The defendant’s efforts to involve his protection officers in political and campaign activities were extensive and pervasive to the extent that at time the officers were working primarily on campaign events while on duty," Sweeney said. "It should have come as no surprise to the candidate that having on-duty police officers on his campaign was wrongful and illegal."
Sweeney noted that the police officers should have spoken up and their leadership was "derelict in protecting their officers."
He added that using uniformed officers as political operatives "has a potential to undermine the public’s confidence in its police force" and Leopold effectively placed his "thumb on our political system to heavily tilt in his favor."
Sweeney acquitted Leopold on this count on Friday, saying the prosecution failed to prove that he committed a crime.
The judge said on Friday that when the police drove Leopold around the county to destroy or remove the campaign signs of his opponent Joanna Conti during the 2010 election it showed "poor judgement" but not misconduct in office.
The prosecution alleged that Leopold asked officers and his executive staff to run personal errands. Sweeney called Leopold's lunch liaisons with Connie Casalena, a county employee and Leopold's alleged mistress, "tawdry, degrading and highly offensive," but said Leopold's actions did not rise to the level of misconduct in office.
However when it came to requiring officers and his scheduling secretary, Patty Medelin, to empty the urine from Leopold's catheter bag, Sweeney found Leopold guilty of abusing his power.
Asking a subordinate to empty his catheter bag was "simply outrageous, egregious and wild beyond anything authority he possessed or thought he could possess by virtue of his office," Sweeney said. "The defendant demonstrates an overbearing arrogance and sense of entitlement that is unworthy of someone in public service."
Sweeney found Leopold not guilty on this count saying that Leopold's decision to have two officers protect him while recovering from two back surgeries at Anne Arundel Medical Center was not an unreasonable choice.
Sweeney said Leopold's decision seemed to him an arbitrary distinction and not one that rose to the level of misconduct in office.
The fifth and most serious charge of the indictment was fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary. The prosecution argued that Leopold defrauded the county of money when his protection detail was paid to keep watch around-the-clock at the hospital while he recovered from two back surgeries.
Sweeney found Leopold not guilty because he disagreed with the prosecution's argument (in count four) that the staffing level at the hospital amounted to misconduct in office.
If convicted on the fraud charge, Leopold would have faced up to five years in prison.
Leopold now faces removal from office by Anne Arundel County Council due to a state law passed by voters on referendum in November 2012. The law permits state and local legislatures to remove elected officials after a conviction rather than after being sentenced.
"[The] bill is already drafted by one of the council members and would be introduced on Monday evening," County Council Chairman Jerry Walker (R-District 7) said before the verdict was announced.
Chief Administrative Officer John Hammond is now serving as acting Anne Arundel county executive as a result of the suspension of Leopold from his duties. The Maryland Constitution provides for suspension of an elected official upon a guilty finding in a criminal case.
If Leopold is permanently removed from office, Hammond would continue as acting county executive until a replacement could be voted on by the full council. Both the vote on Leopold's removal and on his replacement would require a 5-2 majority to pass.
Patch will update this story with more information later.
- Judge Finds Leopld Not Guilty on One Misconduct Charge
- Leopold's Defense Emerges as Prosecution Rests in Misconduct Trial
- Lawyers Lay Out Their Cases in Leopold Trial
- Leopold Waives Right to Jury Trial
- County Executive's Trial Starts in Annapolis