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Anne Arundel executive John Leopold’s misconduct trial begins

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Jury selection for the misconduct trial of Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold began Wednesday in Circuit Court in Annapolis, as more than 100 potential jurors were interviewed for seven hours with few breaks.

Leopold, 69, spent much of that time at the judge’s bench with his attorneys, listening intently and taking notes.

The courtroom was filled with the potential jurors and about a dozen members of the press. Security was heavy, with two uniformed guards and a plainclothes officer present at all times.

Late in the day, Judge Dennis M. Sweeney told a second group of about 100 potential jurors that they may need to return Thursday afternoon.

The long-awaited trial is getting underway nearly a year after the second-term Republican was indicted on four counts of misconduct and one count of fraudulently misappropriating county funds, charges that carry a maximum sentence of five years.

The charges stem from alleged misuse of his security detail to ferry him to sexual encounters, to accompany him while he ripped down an opponent’s campaign signs, and to keep his mistress and live-in girlfriend from running into each other at a hospital where he was resting after back surgery.

The indictment also alleges he had protection officers compile dossiers on potential political rivals and critics.

Leopold is also the subject of two sex discrimination lawsuits filed by former female employees and another suit filed by the ACLU of Maryland over the dossiers.

He has denied wrongdoing.

When the court recessed for the day, television cameras from several local news outlets waited patiently for Leopold to emerge. After 20 minutes, reporters were getting discouraged, worried that he chose a back exit.

A reporter for WBAL (Channel 11) in Baltimore tried to buck up his crew, saying, “He loves the spotlight!”

After 10 more minutes passed with no Leopold, someone said what everyone was thinking: “This is getting old.”

The trial is scheduled to last two weeks and is expected to rely heavily on witness testimony. It resumes Thursday at 8 a.m.

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