Reporting Mike Hellgren
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ/AP) — Former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold was led out of the courthouse in handcuffs after being sentenced to 30 days in jail for misconduct charges. He will also serve 30 days on house arrest.
Mike Hellgren reports a Motion for Entry of Stay of Sentence was denied Thursday morning, and Judge Dennis Sweeney sentenced Leopold on two counts of misconduct in office.
Leopold didn’t even have time to get his belongings. The judge ordered him to begin serving his 30 days right away, saying a message had to be sent.
Judge Sweeney also handled former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon’s corruption trial. He cited that case when he said there will be no more probation and the only way to handle corrupt politicians is by sending them to jail.
For the first time in his life, the former Anne Arundel County executive is not a free man.
Sweeney gave him two years in jail, with all but 60 days suspended. He will spend a minimum of 30 days at the Anne Arundel County Detention Center and the rest can be under house arrest. He will be fined and will need to serve 400 hours of community service.
While the judge asked that Leopold pay a fine of $100,000, which would go to the state, he said he would lower the fine to $75,000 if Leopold pays it directly to the county.
It’s a harsher sentence than prosecutors had asked for.
Leopold, a Republican, would have avoided jail time under a recommendation by prosecutors. They asked for a 1-year suspended sentence, a $100,000 fine, five years of probation and 500 hours of community service.
“I think it sends a powerful message to the community and to elected officials that this type of thing won’t be tolerated,” said Emmet Davitt, state prosecutor.
Some former employees are relieved.
“This has been a long hard battle for the county and for myself. It was a feeling of relief that we got justice today and justice that was definitely deserved,” said Jean Harris, former county employee.
The former county executive resigned last month after Sweeney found him guilty of forcing his staff to do campaign work and perform personal errands like emptying his catheter bag.
Leopold did offer an apology: “I take responsibility for my serious errors in judgment,” he said. “I regret I asked my security detail to touch a campaign check or sign.”
The judge says he took all arguments by the prosecution and defense into account. Sweeney says Leopold had “outrageous, egregious conduct” and arrogance and disdain for his employees and the public he served.
Yet some former employees say the sentence goes too far.
“I’m angry at the judge for what he did. I just think it was the wrong decision. All he did was ask somebody to empty a bag, and all she had to do was say no,” said Carol Vitek, former Leopold aide.
During sentencing Thursday, the prosecutor said he was troubled by a letter written on Leopold’s behalf by his girlfriend, Jane Miller. Miller wrote about the county employee who testified Leopold ordered her to change his catheter bag and suggested she never complained about it. The prosecution said the letter was “inappropriate and insinuated the state’s primary witness was not telling the truth.”
In regards to the catheter bag, Leopold said “I was disrespectful to employees. For my irresponsible judgment, I am truly sorry.”
Miller, who testified on his behalf at sentencing, says she was saddened by revelations of his infidelity but she stuck with him. She also says his embarrassment and shame over what he did to himself is far worse punishment than anything the court can hand out.
The judge also gave Leopold five years probation. He cannot run for office during that time. It’s unclear if he has any desire to do so.
Leopold resigned, and the County Council picked Laura Neuman to replaced Leopold as county executive last month.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)