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Judge Finds Leopold Not Guilty on One Misconduct Charge

Circuit Judge Dennis Sweeney said having officers drive Leopold around to remove his opponent's campaign signs did not amount to misconduct in office.

An Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge on Friday found County Executive John Leopold not guilty on one of four counts of misconduct in office.

Leopold still faces three counts of misconduct in office and one count of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary. 

Judge Dennis Sweeney said while officers assigned to protect Leopold were present when Leopold allegedly destroyed or removed the campaign signs of his opponent Joanna Conti during the 2010 election, it did not rise to the level of misconduct in office.

"Mr. Leopold may have been able to be charged with the crimes of theft or malicious destruction of property," Sweeny said. "It was not being done in part and parcel of his office, but [it was] being done as a private citizen."

Sweeney's not guilty decision on count two, which dealt with the campaign signs, came in response to the defense's motion for a judgment of acquittal on all five counts. Leopold is accused of tasking the officers assigned to his protection detail with running errands on behalf of the executive's re-election campaign.

If convicted on the fraud charge, Leopold could face up to five years in prison.

Sweeney noted that Leopold's actions in regards to the signs could be considered "ill advised" and showing "poor judgment."

The prosecution rested its case on Thursday, and the defense will start calling witnesses on Friday afternoon.

See also:

  • 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
Kymberly Smith Jackson January 25, 2013 at 07:33 PM
This is exactly how the GOP got off-track & by extension our country - the Old Boys Network - in exercising its "discretion" - reinforces grossly anti-social & anti-American conduct of it's other Old Boys, with no regard for the rest of us.
Dawn Joanne Sellars January 25, 2013 at 08:03 PM
This is a sad day when a pervert like Leopold gets off. Literally, he uses our tax dollars to cover up and hid his sexual misconduct and lies. Wow I really want to keep him in our county.. I agree with you Kimberly, it's pretty pathetic.
WhrisAmerica January 25, 2013 at 08:11 PM
Sounds like he had too much time on his hands. Maybe he should do some free community service for his wrong doings. There are several roads that need trash picked up on them . . .
Steven Conn January 25, 2013 at 09:23 PM
Huh? Police Officers were present while an elected official was breaking the law but did nothing? Maybe I should run for office and start sucking off the government teet... Sounds like being a politician comes with a stack of "get out of jail free" cards. Actually, you never even have to go to jail since cops are too scared to haul u in (obviously). Secondly, isn't it illegal to run around removing opponents campaign signs? Sounds like "theft" or "distruction of property" at a minimum...
Steven Conn January 25, 2013 at 09:25 PM
And I'm still scratching my head why a "County Executive" even needs a security detail. Is the position that important to our County/State/Nation that the AA County Exec needs his own mini secret service? Sounds like a waste of taxpayer $.
W. L. January 25, 2013 at 09:35 PM
Of course he gets off. He'll get off all the other charges too. That's why he has this judge deciding his fate.
Mike January 25, 2013 at 10:30 PM
Why does he have ANY protective detail? Why are we forced, under threat of violence from our local government, to hand over our money to fund his protective detail? How long before every school principal or fire chief gets one? This is literally the stuff banana-republics, and it has marched right through our door.
Naptownbll January 25, 2013 at 10:37 PM
Nothing he did is illegal. Is he a real sob towards women and egotistical probably. A poor boss who is a tyrant, probably. Did he exercise poor judgment, definitely. Does this make him a criminal, no way. The big waste of money is this trial. It's a stretch to charge someone for removing campaign signs, it happens a ton in every election. Having sex in cars is something teens do and not in the standards of what a county executive should do but it shouldn't be a court case. If so we can go behind every school in the county and catch someone with foggy windows. Let it go he'll be out of office soon enough, if it's all true the civil cases will yield greater rewards.
Mike January 25, 2013 at 11:19 PM
Naptown, he DIRECTED police (paid by us) to do things for him that are not part of their jobs. THAT is criminal malfeasance and abuse of the taxpayer. Saying it is about 'having sex in cars' is a strawman and a distraction. The charges are NOT about whether he had sex in cars or whether that is criminal.
Roberta Salamon January 27, 2013 at 12:55 AM
Which is exactly what they are hoping for. Drag it on and on and his tenure will be over, he can retire, collect his pension and live off the tax payers for the rest of his pathetic life. Go Anne Arundel County!!!
Chris W January 27, 2013 at 05:10 PM
Ask Janet Owens (D). The practice started with her.
Carol B January 27, 2013 at 11:41 PM
The trial is about his abuse of the privileges associated with the office (having police escort him to his trysts--and empty his catheter bag--and so on), and his abuse of the power of the office, in intimidating employees who wouldn't cooperate. It's also about having sex in cars *while on the public clock*--the same thing that made what Bill Clinton did with Monica in the Oval Office more than privately scandalous. Naptownbll, I don't know what you do for a living--but tomorrow, why don't you try going out in the company parking lot during working hours with a lover who just happens to be a member of your staff, and having another employee who is *also* collecting a paycheck for his or her efforts stand watch while you do--let alone one whose first responsibility is the safety and welfare of the general public--and see if your boss thinks "it shouldn't be a court case" (or the lesser-light equivalent). He is an abomination, and another example of the intelligence of the voters in this area, who routinely vote such corrupt individuals into office.
Chris W January 28, 2013 at 12:34 AM
He is also innocent until proven guilty, or do we not believe in that anymore.
Carol B January 28, 2013 at 01:00 AM
Certainly, Chris. But with a number of his own personnel and a number of County police officers already testifying against him, the likelihood of his exoneration is very slim indeed. I think we're all really, really tired of hearing these stories of elected officials going nauseatingly astray, then tearfully apologizing, and (in their own benighted eyes), "gallantly" declaring that the blame is only their own. (To whom else would it belong?) The arrogance that allows them to persist in such behavior even after colleague after colleague has been exposed, even after months and months of vehemently, indignantly proclaiming his own innocence, is perhaps key to the kind of mentality that leads them to do so in the first place. I want no such "leaders" on my payroll, and I couldn't care less whence they originated, politically. Every last one of them deserves to be unemployed.
Mike January 28, 2013 at 01:15 AM
Chris, I'm not sure I follow you. Is anyone saying he should be convicted without trial? There is a difference between public discussion of someone's crimes and a jury's verdict. So while he is certainly innocent in the eyes of the law until proven guilty, that's a different standard from being innocent in the eyes of the public until proven guilty. If that seems confusing or odd, please consider that only the rarest of cases does a trial EXONERATE (AKA: prove innocence) rather than simply concluding that guilt was not proved. Further, there are many guilty people who for various reasons are not prosecuted at all. As such, there are plenty of times the public is right to believe in someone's guilt regardless of what happens in the trial, or of what might have happened in the trial that didn't take place.
Mike January 28, 2013 at 01:23 AM
Well said, Carol.
Chris W January 28, 2013 at 01:34 AM
I don't disagree, if he is convicted. Let's get that "little formality" out of the way first. If he is convicted, yes, he needs to go. He will be gone son anyway.
Carol B January 28, 2013 at 02:13 AM
I think his waiver of a jury also speaks volumes, Chris. He doesn't want the sordid details made any more public than they already have been. For a man that age even to engage in behavior that could bring such accusations on himself is despicable. I am hardly at his level--nor do I earn his salary, or enjoy the legitimate perquisites of his office--but even I am enjoined from engaging "in any activity that gives [as much as] the appearance of an impropriety." So are most people in positions of trust--and we are regularly reminded of what that means, so he can hardly pretend that he didn't know that what he was doing was wrong.
Carol B January 28, 2013 at 02:23 AM
Exactly, Mike. Many people (two notorious examples being Al Capone and the "Teflon Don," John Gotti) literally get away with murder on technicalities. The fact that the evidence to convict them cannot be produced doesn't make them innocent--it just means they haven't been (legally) proven guilty. But this duck has already quacked--and even though he may be "leaving soon anyway," if he's not convicted, it will be with a big, fat pension (which if he isn't **innocent**, he doesn't deserve).
Mike January 28, 2013 at 02:26 AM
Chris, respectfully, I differ with you on this one. I am in no way downplaying the importance not only of a trial, but a FAIR trial, prior to any use of government force against Mr. Leopold. But the trial of his fitness for office has a COMPLETELY different standard than a criminal or civil trial. Fitness for office is judged by the will of the people, and should in no way be dependent on the outcome of a criminal trial, EXCEPT at the discretion of each citizen in his own mind, and to the extent deemed so by each in his own mind. While it is better to let 10 guilty men go free than to convict an innocent man, one needn't be so cautious about voting against people one doesn't trust. There is a huge gulf between "found guilty for punishment by law" and "failing to be above reproach." The test for office should be the latter. Woe be to all of us if it is ever reduced to the former--our standards for politicians seem way too low already.
Chris W January 29, 2013 at 12:27 PM
Carole, All I'm saying is that his trial is in the court and will be decided soon, let's not have a trial in the press as well. You don't like him. Fine. I get that. Did you ever stop to think that some "facts" might be incorrect? I'm not saying they are, I'm just saying that he deserves a fair proceeding to determine the facts.
Mike January 29, 2013 at 12:50 PM
Chris, as noted before, his trial in the court of public opinion has no bearing on whether force of law will be used against him, at least in this case that is underway already. It is simply an collection of opinions of citizens, stating what they like or dislike. It should have no bearing whatsoever on his trial. The only legal implications it should have are in influencing the discretion of political leaders as to what potential actions to pursue against him. In that regard, it is helpful to press for ever more scrutiny of poltical figures. A wary public is desirable. Our problems in this country come from neglecting to try those in power in the court of public opinion rather than from doing so too much.
Carol B January 29, 2013 at 01:12 PM
Well said, Mike. Public officials in general have become more and more flagrantly corrupt. You don't have to go very far to find a county executive who is a convicted felon; a senator who fathered a child whose paternity he vehemently denied (then publicly acknowledged); a mayor who, despite repeated convictions for drug-related offenses and persistent "rehabilitations," is still serving in public office; a President who habitually conducted his assignations "on company time"; a Congressman who repeatedly propositioned young same-sex aides--and so on. Whether the prosecution is adept enough to provide sufficient evidence to convict Leopold *legally* or not, he has already convicted himself *morally* by his own admissions, and demonstrated that he lacks the character, judgment, and integrity to hold the office he now occupies. I'm not sure why the difference is so difficult to grasp. Whether he ever goes to jail for what he has admitted to doing--been caught doing--is alleged to have been doing, or not, I don't want him as my county executive--not because I don't like him (I don't see how any decent person could like or respect such a man), but because he is *not fit to be county executive.* (If you had a son, would you encourage him to grow up to be just like Mr. Leopold? Would you choose a man like him to be the boy's coach, or mentor, or scout leader? I hope not.)
Carol B January 29, 2013 at 09:50 PM
Patch's bulletin on Leopold's conviction quotes the presiding judge as saying that "the defendant demonstrates an overbearing arrogance and sense of entitlement that is unworthy of someone in public service"--even though he wasn't convicted of criminal wrongdoing in this trial. I think I said the same thing above. That's the difference between the two, Chris: what's immoral and unethical and disgusting is not necessarily *illegal*--but it's not the kind of behavior in which someone with any integrity engages while in public office. It's a pity that they no longer put people in the stocks, or run them out of town on a rail. All he'll lose is his job and his privileges. He deserves to lose a good deal more.

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