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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
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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