Leopold indicted on charges of using police detail for political gain

Anne Arundel County executive accused of using detail to bring him to sexual encounters

March 03, 2012|By Nicole Fuller, The Baltimore Sun

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold has been charged with using his taxpayer-funded police detail to help secure his re-election, run personal errands, keep his affair with a county employee private and drive him to frequent sexual rendezvous, according to an indictment handed down Friday by a grand jury.

Leopold, a Republican, was charged with four counts of misconduct in office and one count of fraudulent misappropriation of county funds, charges that come after a yearlong investigation by the state prosecutor. If convicted of all misdemeanor charges, the 69-year-old Pasadena resident could face at least one year in jail.

"Public officials criminally abuse their public trust when they treat public resources as their personal property and public personnel as their personal servants," Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt said in a statement. "These abuses will not be tolerated."

In a telephone interview after the indictment was announced, Leopold vowed to fight the charges, saying he would not step down. He declined to comment on the specific allegations, but his attorney criticized the state prosecutor's decision to include such graphic detail in the indictment.

"The citizens of the county can look at my decades-long record of public service and know that I've always put the interest of the taxpayers first," said Leopold. "I would ask my fellow citizens to reserve judgment until both sides of the story can be heard. … I'm confident that when the citizens hear both sides of the story and hear all the facts, they'll have a complete and full account and we will prevail."

The indictment lists some bizarre allegations — including that the county executive ordered his security detail to empty his urine catheter after an operation. He was also accused of having the officers drive him to meet a female county employee for sexual encounters in a vehicle parked in public places up to three times weekly.

Many of the charges included in the nine-page indictment focus on Leopold's 2010 re-election campaign. According to the document, Leopold directed the officers to investigate his political opponents and prepare dossiers, to collect campaign contributions in and out of the county, and to deposit them at the bank during their working hours.

Additionally, he used county employees for personal errands, according to the indictment, instructing them to deliver newspapers and take-out dinners to his home on weekends, and to purchase and deliver gifts from Leopold to others.

The officers were also deeply involved in his personal life, the indictment says. Leopold is accused of ordering a member of the detail to work more than 170 hours of overtime during his two hospitalizations in Februrary and July 2010 for back surgery. The goal, according to the document, was to keep Leopold's live-in girlfriend Jane Miller from running into Constance Casalena, an assistant planner at the Department of Recreation and Parks with whom Leopold had an "intimate relationship." The overtime cost the county more than $10,000.

Reached at her office, Casalena declined to comment. Miller, who has sometimes accompanied Leopold during official public appearances, could not be reached.

Leopold's attorney, Bruce L. Marcus, criticized the prosecutor's office in a written statement, calling the allegations "scurrilous, salacious and scandalous" and saying they would be "better suited to cheap tabloids and not befitting charging documents filed in a Maryland court of law."

Marcus said the prosecutor's office included detailed information beyond the crimes alleged, raising questions about the "motives, manner and methods underlying the prosecution."

"Those who believe in, and hold sacred the importance of a fair judicial process must question the reasons and motivation for littering the public record with unseemly and wholly unnecessary allegations unrelated to the crimes charged," the statement says.

Leopold was not arrested. His attorney was issued a criminal summons for Leopold to appear for an arraignment on the charges on March 26.

Davitt, who was appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, was unavailable for an interview Friday. James I. Cabezas, the state prosecutor's chief investigator, said close to 99 percent of the cases that the office investigates are "complaint-driven."

"There has never been a prosecution from this office that was politically driven," he said.

David B. Irwin, a Towson attorney who defended Edward T. Norris when he was indicted for misusing police funds while head of the Baltimore Police Department, said Leopold basically has two defenses. He can either say he didn't commit the crimes, or that he had a right to engage in the behavior in the indictment.

"Do these alleged abuses rise to a criminal offense? That's going to be the ultimate issue that a judge and a jury will have to decide," said Irwin.

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