Monday, November 30, 2015         

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Ex-isle official accused of abusing power in Maryland

By Jessica Gresko

Associated Press


ANNAPOLIS, Md. » The way prosecutors describe him, the head of Maryland's fourth-largest county is a bully who abused his office and used his police bodyguards and secretary as his personal servants.

They say John Leopold, a former Hawaii school board member and legislator, had officers put up campaign signs and drive him to repeated sexual romps in a bowling alley parking lot. He required officers to prepare dossiers on political challengers and drive him to sabotage a rival's campaign signs.

Prosecutors say Leopold also had them work overtime when he was hospitalized for back surgery, assigning an extra officer to ensure his live-in girlfriend and another woman he was involved with didn't meet. And when he left the hospital, he allegedly forced his secretary to empty his catheter bag several times a day.

During the opening of Leopold's criminal misconduct trial Friday, a state prosecutor said the now 69-year-old executive's actions were "egregious" and more than the misuse and mistreatment of county employees. Prosecutor Emmet Davitt told the judge hearing the case that Leopold's actions amounted to criminal misconduct in office.

Leopold's lawyer wove a different narrative in denying the criminal charges. Defense attorney Bruce L. Marcus described Leopold as a dedicated public servant, an intensely self-reliant man who suddenly found himself with serious health problems as he campaigned for re-election in 2010. In the face of suggestions he was too old and too weak to serve, Leopold asked those closest to him to help, his lawyer said.

Marcus said his client has devoted his life to public service, first as a lawmaker in Hawaii and later as a Republican state legislator in Maryland. Leopold served on the Hawaii Board of Education from 1968 to 1970 before serving eight years as a state representative and senator.

In 2006, Leopold was elected to head Anne Arundel County, the growing county between Baltimore and Washington that is home to 500,000 residents and the U.S. Naval Academy.

As he campaigned for re-election in 2010, however, Leopold began to have excruciating back pain, said his lawyer. Treatment would require two surgeries.

Leopold, a cancer survivor, decided to hide his weakness so it couldn't be used by political adversaries. So when a girlfriend showed up unexpectedly at the hospital, he asked for a second officer to be posted, his lawyer said.

Anne Arundel County assigns police officers to provide security for their elected executives at taxpayer expense.

Prosecutors say the second officer was posted to help Leopold conceal his relationship with the woman from his live-in girlfriend. Posting the second officer, prosecutors say, cost the county more than $10,000 in overtime pay. Leopold's lawyer said his client didn't know about the overtime.

Around the same time, prosecutors allege, Leopold removed six of his Demo­cratic opponent's campaign signs, tossing them into ravines or the woods. His lawyer suggested the signs were improperly placed in the public right of way.

And when Leopold asked for help from employees, he believed they were friends and working for a common goal, his lawyer said.

But on Friday his secretary and scheduler Patricia Medlin testified she was never asked if she wanted to help with his personal care. Leopold just told her she would be emptying his catheter bag two or three times a day, she said.

Leopold also faces two federal sexual discrimination lawsuits brought by female former employees, both alleging sexual discrimination. The ACLU has filed a lawsuit over dossiers on political opponents Leopold is alleged to have created.

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