Today was the fifth 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. 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.
TODAY’S SCORE: LEOPOLD – 1 STATE – 0
Today was the fifth day of Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold’s trial in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court in Annapolis. The court opened with a motion by the defense to acquit Leopold and much of the morning was spent arguing that point. If the motion is not accepted, the defense will proceed and continue to defend the County Executive against the charges
Motion For Judgement Of Acquittal
As expected, the defense opened this morning with a MJOA (Motion for Judgement of Acquittal) on all of the charges, and began to argue them count by count. Bob Bonsib led the arguments for the defense and with language eerily similar to my post yesterday, asked the judge to acquit John Leopold. The purpose of this motion is not that the defense necessarily thought that there would be an acquittal on all counts, but you can never be sure, and there may be an acquittal on some of the counts. If there is no full acquittal, they will proceed to mount their defense.
Bonsib was like the mean dog that had been laying asleep in the corner who just heard an intruder. He was forceful, animated and adamant that the State had no case against the County Executive. He agreed that he might be a horrible boss and in fact stated that in private industry, horrible bosses are a dime a dozen and employees simply leave. But in public, when there is a horrible boss, there is an indictment.
He harped that at no time did the County Executive demand or require anyone to do anything which essentially negates many of the counts.
In what was probably the lightest moment of the trial to date, Bonsib was discussing Leopold’s liaisons in the Bowling Alley parking lot and asked the Judge, “If he was a married man and wanted to go home for a nooner, would that be criminal?” The courtroom, including Leopold audibly snickered. Immediately after that remark, a tweet was sent from a satiric account @KingLeopold3 who has had some pretty amusing tweets the past two days.
On the count of the fraudulent misappropriation, which ties into the overtime of the EPU, Bonsib argued that Leopold is not and was not necessarily aware of the overtime status claiming the executive had no knowledge of who was on overtime and who was not.
The defense ended their statements.
The prosecution presented their reasoning for not granting the motion and it seemed Sweeney was taking the State to task. The Judge asked the State’s prosecutor how Leopold could be charged with misconduct in office when removing the signs of Joanna Conti were done on personal time by “private citizen/candidate” John Leopold.
Sweeney really dug into the prosecutor and it seemed that there was a possibility he might acquit Leopold on all counts.
The Court adjourned for lunch.
Before heading to El Toro Bravo for lunch (highly recommended, and the seat to the right just inside the door has an outlet under the table perfect for recharging an iPad), we popped in on an interview with a gentleman who was in the audience. He claimed that Leopold had sent “people” to follow him because he was a friend of Carl Snowden, who was one of the people named in the indictment as having a dossier prepared on them.
After this interview, we (Eye On Annapolis and Scott Bowling) ran into Karla Hamner to get her opinion about the morning’s events.
After that, I went to El Toro Bravo and had the taco and enchilada and a coke–was great!
Judge Sweeney Acquits Leopold On One Count
Once we returned from lunch, it was surprising to see Joanna Conti in the courtroom once again. Typically witnesses are barred from the courtroom before and after their testimony in case they hear something that may sway it one way or the other. There is a chance that the defense may call her, or the prosecution may recall her before this is out and something she may have heard might influence her testimony.
When Judge Sweeney returned to the bench (not sure where he went to lunch) he announced that he was acquitting John R. Leopold on the 2nd count. This was the misconduct in office involving the removal of the campaign signs for Joanna Conti. In acquitting the County Executive, Sweeney opined, “Mr. Leopold may have been able to be charged with the crimes of theft or malicious destruction of property, but this was not being done in part and parcel of his office, it was being done as a private citizen.” The remaining 4 counts (3 of misconduct and 1 of misappropriation) will now be defended.
The Defense Mounts Its Case For Leopold
The defense called their fist witness, Dr. Roy Bands who was Leopold’s orthopedic surgeon who performed the surgeries on the County Executive. Through a long and arduous testimony with MRIs and xrays, we learned that Leopold had severe back issues and was in excruciating pain. The doctor observed that he was surprised that he was able to deal with the pain as long as he did. He also commented that Leopold’s bladder was “as big as I have ever seen” which was a complication from the back problem and the surgery. The doctor was not 100% comfortable discharging Leopold, but said he “felt better” after speaking with the officers and knowing that he would have someone to help him. He testified that “he can’t drive, can’t take trash out, could have trouble up and down stairs, and will need help with foley bag (catheter).”
The defense finished with the witness and the prosecution asked one question pertaining to his current progress. The doctor was dismissed.
Just after the doctor left the courtroom, the word spread about the devastating inch of snow that “might” arrive tonight and wreak havoc on all the land. In true Maryland fashion, court was adjourned so that we all could take shelter and ride out the wrath and fury of Mother Nature. With God’s will, we will be able to survive the inch of snow and re-convene on Monday morning at 9:00am.
General Comments, Observations, Ruminations
Looking around the courtroom, I could see that the acquittal of one count put the defense in a good mood. Even the cute, pouty blonde paralegal (?–question mark in place so I am not yelled at again by Bruce Marcus for misidentifying someone in his firm) seemed a bit more upbeat. Conversely, the prosecution, and to be honest, most observers in the courtroom seemed to be down, in shock, etc. Moving to a bench trial was certainly the best move for Leopold short of moving the trial to another venue.
As my scorecard indicates, I do not see the prosecution doing a really good job. While the defense seems to have the “fire in the belly”, the prosecution seems lethargic. Now granted, I am guessing between the two (Bonsib and Marcus) the cost of “fire in the belly” is currently running about $1000/hour.
I am not alone in my thinking. The attorney for Karla Hamner tweeted earlier today
— John M. Singleton (@Jmsatty) January 25, 2013
This trial is not over. It will not be over until sometime next week, but I am still sticking with to my guns on how it all will shake out. I will leave my guess at the bottom of this and future recaps and we will see how it all ends up.
What do you think? Leave a comment and please vote in our poll!
Time will tell. See you Monday!
CUMULATIVE SCORE: LEOPOLD – 5 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.