Today was the sixth day of 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 and one count of misconduct was thrown out on Friday. 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, @barrysimms11, and @annapolisscott. (It should be pointed out here that Lowell Melser bailed on the trial–something about a football game down south.)
TODAY’S SCORE: LEOPOLD – 1 STATE – 0
Today was the sixth day of Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold’s trial in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in Annapolis. The court opened with additional witnesses.
Dr. Timothy Burke
Dr. Burke is the Director of Neuroscience at Anne Arundel Medical Center. He testified as to the medical issues surrounding the county executive and the pain he suffered. There were MRIs presented and a lot of medical-ese terms tossed around. Suffice to say that the dude was in a lot of pain and had complex surgery to alleviate it and the recovery was not so simple. I think we can all agree on that!
Ms. Fulton was brought back as a defense witness. She is the Personnel Officer for the County and she testified as to the dates of the collective bargaining negotiations, the fact that Leopold returned his mandatory pay raise to the County, and that she looked into the overtime situation for the EPU and reported it back to the conspicuously absent James Teare.
Motion To Acquit Again
The defense, one again, brought up the motion to acquit. Initially, Judge Sweeney was not having any of it, but acquiesed and allowed the defense to continue. The defense argued that the definition of misconduct is so ill-defined and that many of the behaviors cited in the indictment were very questionable at best. On the misappropriation, the defense argued that Leopold did not take any money. He had no control over any money. The prosecution, Deputy State Prosecutor Thomas M. McDonough, in his rebuttal, argued the county executive, as Anne Arundel’s top elected official, had power over county money. Isn’t this a little like holding a bank CEO responsible because the teller’s drawer was short?
As the Judge was listening to the arguments, he asked the prosecution about one portion of one of the charges (sorry, it was hard to hear), but the prosecution was unable to discuss it. It did not seem that the judge was pleased.
At one point, the Judge asked the prosecution if this was just away to prosecute the County Executive for government waste. They answered , “no.”
Regardless, the Judge denied the motion to reconsider the motion to acquit and adjourned until tomorrow when we will hear closing arguments and likely a verdict. Of course on the most exciting day, I have to and from work–so I may be a few moments late in the start and may miss a few moments around lunch!
General Comments, Observations, Ruminations
I was reading the body language of the Judge and there were decided differences in hand gestures and facial expressions. I have no idea what the hell that means, but to me it looked like he was more irritated at the prosecution than the defense. This morning, Leopold sat at the table and appeared very glum–well, I guess he is entitled as his fate will be decided tomorrow.
I spoke to an attorney in the courtroom who was observing the trial and he felt that Leopold would be fond guilty on the first count only. And then he appended–or none at all. So it is a nail biter. The media, who all gather out front to accost Leopold daily all seem to feel that there is not enough to convict, yet all of them refused to make those predictions on the air. Wimps–yeah, I’m talking to you Barry Simms.
No one had any comment when they left the courtroom other than defense attorney Bruce Marcus who said, “we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”
So, from here, we will hear closing arguments tomorrow, likely break for lunch and then come back and hear a verdict from Judge Sweeney.
If Leopold is found guilty of any count, he may be suspended from office and Chief Administrative Officer John Hammond will be acting County Executive until all legal possibilities are exhausted. If any conviction sticks, the County Council will need to vote to oust Leopold and they will need at least five (of seven) votes to do it. If Sweeney convicts and sentences some sort of Probation Before Judgement (PBJ) it is unclear if there will be a suspension or attempt at removal from office. If found not guilty (my vote) he will head back to 44 Calvert Street and get back to work!
Me, I am still sticking to my guns!
What do you think? Leave a comment and please vote in our poll!
Time will tell. See you Tomorrow!
CUMULATIVE SCORE: LEOPOLD – 6 STATE – 1
Based on a non-legal observation of all of the testimony, I think Leopold may be acquitted of all charges or possibly held accountable for one. The misappropriation charge carries a mandatory 1 year sentence. The judge has much more leeway with the other charges.
As I have said in the past, Leopold is a really, really, really bad boss. I am pretty sure there are very few who will dispute that. There are plenty more colorful terms floating out there as well–pervert, sicko, sex addict (hey there was no sex today, I had to work it in), pig, etc. And they may be true. But I also think that most people will agree that judged purely as a County Executive, he has done a very good job. He has admirably done the job for which the people elected him. The County’s finances are in order. The infrastructure is sound. The public safety departments are effective. The parks are clean and useful. Land use and development is in check. There are some parallels here to Bill Clinton–he got a little nookie on the job, but performed admirably as a President.
So, how do I think it will shake out? Here is my guess and we will see at the end! If you want to see the indictment, here it is (PDF).
Count 1 Misconduct. This surrounded having officers required to perform political stuff. They testified they were never ordered or required to do any task. They were afraid to not do it, but that is not Leopold’s problem. Acquitted.
Count 2 Misconduct. Theft of campaign signs. There was testimony that they were illegally placed; but also testimony that some may have been legal. The indictment alleges that of the six signs, two were thrown in the woods/down a hill and the rest were laid down. Is laying a sign down theft? Is throwing it in the woods theft? I am not sure this was proven. And there is question on the legality of at least some of the signs’ placement. This is the count that he might be convicted on; but I think, in the grand scheme it is relatively minor when you consider the slots guy had several hundred signs. Acquitted
Count 3 Misconduct. This is the charge for using the employees to do personal (medical) tasks. Repeated testimony is that they were never required or ordered to do anything. Some complied because they feared he might retaliate. Some voluntarily did them and even contributed financially to his campaign. The “you just don’t say no to John Leopold” defense is very weak and at some point these people who were being walked over need to man up and just say no. Acquitted.
Count 4 Misconduct. This charge is about using the security detail to hide his relationship with his girlfriend from his significant other. There was testimony that the significant other was not in the State when he was in the hospital, so there is no need to keep the two apart. The charges focus on the hospital stay, but the CE asked for no visitors and it was testified that the EPU never notified the hospital and Casalena had to be removed by the hospital staff. Leopold probably had a valid political reason for keeping his medical issues private–not that anything he has done is private any more! Acquitted.
Count 5 Misappropriation. The misappropriation stems from the allegation that he used the officers (and their $5000 in OT) to hide the relationship. Like above, I am not sure that is the case. Throughout the testimony, blowjobs aside, there were only two instances wehre Connie Casalena was mentioned–the hospital incident (where the EPU seemingly failed) and a dog judging contest at Quiet Waters Park where Leopold asked his officer to keep Casalena away from him that day. Certainly he was at the park for an official duty and not to cruise the parking lot–and a security detail was likely required. Aquitted.
So, the 1 year mandatory sentence is out of the window (misappropriation) and there is possibly one guilty of the remaining 4 for the theft of the Joanna Conti signs. I suspect that the judge turns around and offers some sort of PBJ if found guilty on that charge.
Deputy State Prosecutor Thomas M. McDonough, in his rebuttal, argued the county executive, as Anne Arundel’s top elected official, had power over county money.