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The Leopold Trial – Day 2

| January 22, 2013, 06:01 PM | 0 Comments

Today was the second 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 was the second 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.  This morning I was scolded by defense attorney Bruce Marcus. Yesterday, I referred to Robert Bonsil as Marcus’ assistant. They are co-defending Leopold and as Mr. Marcus said, “he’s was practicing when I was in diapers.”  We regret the error and appreciate the correction and the good natured ribbing!

The Witnesses

Corporal Joseph Pazulski

Corporal Pazulski continued his testimony. The defense tried to define the Standard Operating Procedures used in the department for Executive Protection, but according to Pazulski, they were lax at best and focused more on staffing levels than procedures. He testified that he considered Owens and Leopolds as “friends” and that during Owens’ term they kept signs in the back of the car for constituents that wanted them. When Leopold was suffering the back pain, Pazulski testified that at times he was in such pain that he had to lay down in the back of the SUV for comfort. The defense attorney questioned if Pazulski felt that he was “protecting” Leopold by allowing him to work under those conditions and to be transported in that position.  The defense wrapped up with Pazulski testifying that after the election, he no longer wanted to work for the Executive Protection Unit.

Corporal Howard Brown

Prior to Corporal Brown taking the stand, the defense made an argument for emails the prosecution had regarding a similar case in Queen Anne’s County which was not prosecuted. The prosecution did not want to release them, but ultimately lost. Defense attorney Bonsil vehemently argued that the contents may be apropos to this case. He got all red in the face and made, and won, his point.  Judge Sweeney ordered the documents released but with an order that they not be admitted into evidence unless it appears that they need to be. They will only be viewable by the attorneys involved.

Corporal Brown was also on the EPU for Leopold and on the surface his testimony was salacious and damning to Leopold.  But on cross examination, maybe not so much.

Brown essentially backed up the story we heard from Pazulski in that he was expected to do chores and to do campaign work for the County Executive. At no time did he state that he was “told” to do these things.  I think that is an important point. The office also testified that he complied with all of Leopold’s requests because he feared non-compliance would impact his job and future.

Brown was the first to testify about the sexual trysts of the County Executive. In his testimony he stated that he would take Leopold to the Annapolis Bowl and circle the parking lot until his girlfriend (Connie Casalena) arrived at which time, Leopold would exit his vehicle and enter hers. While the officer could not testify as to what happened in the car, he did say that when Leopold returned, he said  it was “the best blow job he ever had.”  Brown testified these trysts occurred every Tuesday.

In a particularly damaging cross examination, Brown testified that no one told him to access the NCIC database to create dossiers. He created them utilizing Google and the publicly available Maryland Case Search tool. When specifically questioned about the NCIC database he said that he didn’t “think” it was accessed. This is particularly critical as one of the charges claims that the database was accessed illegally.

Essentially, his testimony supported that of Patty Medlin.

After we broke for lunch, we hopped into a gaggle of television cameras (hi mom) who were talking to Karla Hamner about her civil case against Leopold. Here’s what she had to say before we headed off to El Toro Bravo for some enchiladas and a plug to recharge the iPad!

Upon cross examination, Brown ran into a few problems. The defense continued harping on the fact that there are no SOPs for the EPU and really no instructions as to what is and is not allowed or appropriate. Brown admitted that he had no training  in Executive Protection despite his time with the Secret Service which was testified to be the uniformed division that handles crowd control and more “police type” tasks.

Other inconsistencies surfaced under cross examination. Brown testified that he was sent to the hospital to prevent Leopold’s girlfriend and significant other meeting. Yet he later testified that he knew that Judy Miller (significant other) was at her house in Maine during that time.  Regardless, Casalena did make an appearance at the hospital and was detained by hospital security, not the EPU.

He stated that his immediate supervisor, Major Bergin, never once advised him to not do any of the tasks or activities. He testified that Leopold never asked him to work on his campaign, nor did anyone on Leopold’s campaign staff make such a request. In fact, Brown testified that he freely donated to both of Leopold’s campaigns claiming that he thought it woud put him in good graces.

He also testified that he, Corporal Walker (his co-hort on the EPU) and Erik Robey spent a morning unloading campaign signs from a truck ito Leopold’s basement. (this will be important tomorrow)

An interesting Catch-22 presented by the defense came to light when they pointed out that as a police officer, Brown was sworn to not partake in criminal activity and to intervene if he witnessed criminal activity. When Brown agreed, he also agreed that what he was doing (in his opinion) was not illegal. The defense asked why he took an immunity offer from the State’s prosecutor when he felt that he did (no witnessed) anything illegal. Good point!

To me, it seemed that Brown made some very solid points and accusations, but the defense was able to mitigate them.

Erik Robey

ErikRobeyErik Robey is a campaign volunteer for Leopold as well as his Chief-Of-Staff. In hindsight, Erik Robey’s testimony really added nothing to the argument. He was called to the stand and appeared to be a hostile witness. He looked a little too comfortable in the chair with his legs crossed. Robey did testify that he advised Leopold that he felt it was in the best interest of the campaign to pay “some college kids a few thousand dollars” to distribute the signs but Leopold declined the advice.

Robey’s testimony went late into the afternoon and the judge finally called it quits with Robey continuing to testify tomorrow.

General Comments, Observations, Ruminations

Today’s testimony, blow job comment and all, seemed very daning to the defense, but the defense attorneys did a great job mitigating most of the damage. Not all but most.  The stories are all very similar–Leopold asked them to do tasks that are beyond the call of duty–personal and political. All resented being asked and having to perform them, but none of them made an effort to say “hey, this is wrong, I will not do this.”  They all cited a fear of retaliation for not being loyal and cited that they had seen it done before (without providing real substantiation). Again, was the guy a horrible boss? You betcha! Was he demanding? Check. But so far, I have yet to see anything illegal.

Prior to moving to Maryland, I worked for a contractor and one of the foremen was complaining that the owner asked him to go and gas up his truck. He felt it was beneath him. I asked him if he was being paid less to fill the truck with gas and he said no. As a union electrician, he was making $33/hour to pump gas. If he felt it was beneath him, he could have refused and seen where the chips fell, or quit and found another position somewhere else.  Not exactly the same, but similar!

I am not sure how much a judge will look into the demeanor of a person. I know a jury might take more stake in it; but if he does, the testimony from Erik Robey might put a feather in the prosecutions cap. It was painfully obvious that Robey favored the defense and was not going to do anything (within the law) to help the prosecution–perhaps as it should be considering he is Leopold’s Chief-Of Staff. But his testimony almost came off as if he was a true hostile witness.

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

Time will tell. See you Wednesday!


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Category: Crime News, NEWS, POLITICAL NEWS

About the Author - John Frenaye

John is the publisher and editor of Eye On Annapolis. As a resident and business owner in Anne Arundel County for nearly 25 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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