Leopold gets jail time for misconduct conviction

Published On: Mar 14 2013 01:10:18 PM HST   Updated On: Mar 14 2013 01:20:51 PM HST

A judge on Thursday told former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold he will serve time in jail after being convicted earlier this year of misconduct in office.

Leopold resigned in February after Judge Dennis Sweeney found him guilty of misusing his county office staff and his security detail by forcing them to do personal errands and campaign work for him.

Leopold served in the Hawaii State House of Representatives from 1970 to 1974 and the Hawaii State Senate from 1974 to 1978.

On Thursday, Sweeney sentenced Leopold to two years in jail with all but 60 days suspended. Sweeney said 30 of those days will be spent in the Anne Arundel County Detention Center, and if Leopold is compliant during those days, he can spend the second 30 days on house arrest.

WBAL-TV reporter Barry Simms said Leopold was taken from the courtroom in handcuffs.  He is expected to report to jail later Thursday. 

During the hearing, Leopold expressed regret and apologized for using his security detail for campaign activities and asking a county employee to empty his catheter bag.

Defense attorney Bruce Marcus argued that Leopold was humbled, chastened and profoundly remorseful, asking the judge to consider Leopold's 44 years of public service both in Hawaii and in Maryland.

"For my irresponsible failures in judgment, I am sorry," Leopold told the judge. 

Prosecutors and defense attorneys asked the judge to impose probation, fines and community service instead of jail time, citing Leopold's age and health, but it appears Sweeney did not agree.

During the hearing, Sweeney said that some period of incarceration is necessary in Leopold's case.  He said politicians and public servants need to know what can happen to them if they don't follow the law.

"Leopold displayed considerable arrogance to the people who worked for him," Sweeney said.

In fact, Sweeney said he was trying to send a strong warning. Without mentioning any name, he cited the case of former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, who was also forced from office. She was given probation.

Sweeney decided he needed to send a stronger message of deterrence, saying, "If you violate the law in this area in a serious way, you will be handcuffed, led from a courtroom and spend time in jail."

State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt said he believes some will get the message.

"It does send the message. I would not be so naive as to say everybody will get the message," Davitt said.

Carol Vitek, a supporter and former employee of Leopold, said she's upset that Sweeney sentenced Leopold to jail.

"I'm angry at the judge for what he did," Vitek said. "He didn't give him the dignity of going out of a courtroom without handcuffs. He's not what you'd call a bad criminal. Jesus this is awful."

Former Leopold employee Joan Harris said Leopold ruled by fear and that she feels vindicated by the sentence.

"It was a great feeling seeing Leopold go out in handcuffs," Harris said. "I think it sends a message to all elected officials (that) you cannot abuse your power and get away with it. You will be held accountable for what you do."

Leopold will also have to pay a $100,000 fine and do 400 hours of community service.


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