The Leopold Trial – Day 3

| January 23, 2013
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Today was the third day of testimony in the trial of Anne Arundel County Executive, John R. Leopold, who was indicted in March on four counts of misconduct in office and one count of fraudulent misappropriation. The indictment alleged that Leopold used his executive security detail for personal and political gain. He has pleaded not guilty. Leopold has opted to be tried by retired Judge Dennis M. Sweeney, a retired Howard County Circuit Court Judge. Sweeney also presided over the trial of former Baltimore Mayor, Sheila Dixon. This posting is factually correct; however, it will be presented casually as commentary with heavy doses of opinion, humor, and even a little bit of snark.  For traditional reporting of the trial, we recommend that you check out the stories from Allison Bourg of the Capital Gazette and Anna Staver of the Annapolis Patch. You are on Twitter…right? If not you should be. Please follow us (and others) on Twitter. The hashtag for the trial is #leopold.  Other media representatives covering the trial are also tweeting and you might as well follow them too. @abourg_capital, @annapolispatch, @melserwbal, @johnaaromwtop, @annyswapo, @amaxsmith, @jlepolastewart, @cherylconner, and @annapolisscott.

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TODAY’S SCORE:  LEOPOLD – 1  STATE – 0

Today was the third day of Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold’s trial in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in Annapolis.  The court resumed right where they left off with witnesses and testimony.

The Witnesses

Erik Robey

ErikRobeyRobey’s testimony continued this morning. Erik’s scorn to the prosecutors and adoration towards the defense was, once again, fairly obvious. Under questioning, he admitted that he and Brenda Rieber had recorded a 30-second robocall in the Arundel Center on County time; yet in cross examination he stated that they routinely work in excess of 40 hours and are not compensated for it as they are exempt employees. Robey handled fundraising and volunteer management. In terms of volunteer management he arranged for volunteers to place signs where they were legally allowed to place signs and did not have any problems that he was aware. One donor, Edward St. John (St. John Properties is a developer in county), shorted his contribution to the campaign by $8,000 and only sent $22,000.  Robey contacted St. John and was able to bring in the remaining. He testified that he, Corporal Brown and Corporal Walker did indeed unload signs from a relative’s pick up truck into Leopold’s basement. However, there were 1000 signs packaged 50 per bundle for a total of 20 bundles. When asked if he could have done it himself, Robey replied, “oh yeah!” He was questioned on the volunteers and categorically denied ever telling, asking, or requiring anyone to contribute or work for the campaign. This statement seems to be supported by the officers’ testimony. He was questioned on the dossier on Joanna Conti. He said that he took maybe two minutes to do a google search and get some background information on her “because no one had ever heard of her before.” He also testified that the dossier that Corporal Brown provided had little value. Robey also had knowledge of the now-infamous Joanna Conti sign that was thrown over the hill. He stated that he believed the sign was placed illegally and he reported it to the campaign. It should be noted that Robey was granted immunity for his testimony. After 5 hours total testimony, Robey was released.

Corporal Mark Walker

photo (1)Corporal Mark Walker was also on the EPU and worked in conjunction with Corporal Brown. What started out as very strong testimony for the prosecution, ended up as mumbling police officer seemingly cowering in the witness stand. What we learned from this is that Walker believed his duties were to “gas the car, drive Mr. Leopold wherever he wanted and do his errands.” He testified that he too would take Leopold to the Annapolis Bowl for weekly sexual trysts. He was instructed to circle the parking lot until Connie Casalena arrived, then back in the spot next to her while the County Executive went to her car. Afterwards, he testified, the County Executive would brag that it was “good sex.” He testified that he was called into the hospital to make sure that Connie did not come back and that this was all on overtime. He said that Connie did not pose a threat to Leopold either physically or politically. On discharge from the hospital, Walker drove Leopold to Judy Miller’s home to recover. He was instructed by the County Executive to learn about his catheter changing. He said that Leopold said, “I’m not going to do it myself.”  (Side note: this explanation is likely SOP for the hospital on how to care for any post operative treatment, the instructions are given to the patient and the caregiver.) During recuperation, he testified that he needed to bring the Sunday paper to Judy Miller’s house by 7:00am and the circulars needed to be removed. The cross examination uncovered that the paper was in addition to documents, faxes, mail from the office. The defense stated that Leopold’s job was 24/7 and he needed to be informed. Walker testified that he changed Leopold’s catheter bag “many times” and the prosecution introduced the actual coffee can in which the urine was emptied prior to disposal. Walker identified it as such. Walker testified that he was present when Leopold threw the Conti sign into the woods. He said Leopold told him to pull over, which he did. Then the CE got out, pulled out the sign and threw it down the hill. Walker stated he got out of the car to make sure Leopold was ok. Walker also stated he spent  1 to 2 weeks removing campaign sings for Leopold after the election and that included leaving the CE’s business card with a handwritten (by Walker) “Thank You” in the door if they were not home. Other campaign work he stated he did was to pick up contributions from the Blue Dolphin restaurant in Crofton and the Double T Diner (presumably in Pasadena). The cross examination continued and Walker was forced to answer “yes” to each damning question from the defense as he sank lower into the witness chair. The damage occurred in the last few moments of the Corporal’s cross examination. The defense was trying to prove that there was a tight bond between Leopold and Walker. Walker admitted to sharing risque photos of a women with whom he was having an affair with Leopold. Finally, long after the hospitalization and the election, Walker approached Leopold and told him that he “enjoyed working on the detail and would like to stay on.”

Michael Stablas

He is an Anne Arundel County businessman who contributed to the campaign. He owns the land of the Blue Dolphin restaurant and his children run the business. He testified that someone that was NOT Leopold picked up his contribution. There was no cross examination and he was dismissed.

Tracie Reynolds

Tracie Reynolds is the spokesperson for the Permits Office. She briefly testified that three “Leopold” signs showed up on her property without her permission and that she saw Corporal Pazulski place a sign in her yard with Leopold in the car.

Loretta (missed her last name)

Loretta testified that there was a “Leopold” sign placed in her yard without permission.

Karen Marcus (no relation to defense attorney Bruce Marcus)

Karen Marcus also testified she was the recipient of an unwanted “Leopold” sign in her yard.

Sergeant Gregory Speed

Sgt. Speed was assigned to the EPU on a part time basis and he testified that while driving Leopold (usually on weekends) that he would receive overtime compensation. He acknowledged the overtime reports were his. He also testified that he believes that “at least three” of the signs he witnessed Leopold removing were in the right-of way.  He was dismissed.

Joanna Conti

Joanna Conti was the unsuccessful opponent to Leopold in the last election. She testified that the sign in the courtroom was hers and that she did not give anyone permission to remove it.  Her testimony was short and sweet. After a brief bench conference, the Judge decided to go into recess until tomorrow morning.

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General Comments, Observations, Ruminations

Today’s testimony was a win for the defense in my opinion. The prosecution seems to be putting witnesses on the stand who ultimately end up recanting their Grand Jury testimony or offering additional evidence that makes it highly suspect. By the time the defense was done with Corporal Walker, he could barely do more than mutter a “yes” and glance down to the floor.

What seems to be common in much of the testimony is that no one bothered to say “no” to Leopold when asked to do a task. The best excuse is that they were afraid he “might” do something if they did not.  I have not heard testimony where Leopold said you “must” do this or you “must” do that.  It seems to me that these allegations and feelings of shame are a bit after the horse has left the barn. The time to complain is when you are asked to do it or early in the process–not well after the behaviors that were offensive had stopped.

One of the points the defense keeps making is that the timing of the indictment and complaints is suspect. They all fall around the time when Leopold was looking to overturn collective bargaining agreements with the unions.  The timing does make sense and the unions, as we all know are very powerful in the county.  While it was painfully obvious that Leopold had extreme lapses in judgement and was a horrible boss, the prosecution has not (to date) proven any violation of law.  I have heard the term “suicide by cop” when someone threatens an officer hoping that the officer will shoot him. At lunch today I was talking with someone about the case and we wondered if this was not “homicide by trial.” Prior to this trial, Leopold may have had another step in his political career in State office. But with this trial, his political career is over as soon as his term-limited stint as County Executive ends.

At lunch, an attorney I know brought up a valid point. This trial is all or nothing. The Fraudulent Misappropriation charge carries a mandatory 1-year sentence. The Judge has his hands tied.  The basis of the charge is the additional cost of overtime for police officers for his personal use.  However, if he is found not guilty of misconduct (the use or abuse of the personnel, not the dollars associated with the time) there can be no misappropriation. Similarly, if there is a not guilty for misappropriation, there cannot be any misconduct.  It’s a real Catch – 22.

But as I have seen the past three days, I do not see that the prosecutor has put forth a case that John R. Leopold has violated any laws. But there are more days of testimony ahead and I believe that girlfriend, Connie Casalena will be called to the stand tomorrow–so stay tuned on Twitter and our Day 4 Live Blog for all the salacious details.

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What do you think?  Leave a comment and please vote in our poll!

Time will tell. See you Thursday!

CUMULATIVE SCORE:  LEOPOLD – 3  STATE – 1

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Category: Anne Arundel County Crime, Crime News, Local Politics, NEWS, POLITICAL NEWS

About the Author ()

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for more than 15 years, he realized that there was something missing in terms of community news--and Eye On Annapolis was born in late spring 2009.John's background is in the travel industry as a business owner, industry speaker, and travel writer. In terms of blogging and social media, he cut his teeth with MSNBC.com.

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