If convicted, Leopold, 69, could face up to five years in prison. He has maintained his innocence, and his supporters say he is the target of partisan rivals and powerful union interests.
When prosecutors unveiled the charges in March, the allegations surprised many of Anne Arundel’s more than 500,000 residents, said Dan Nataf, a political science professor at Anne Arundel Community College. The man they knew remembered their names — and even their dogs’ names — years after meeting them. He sent notes to his constituents after weddings and Eagle Scout promotions and helped a mother protect her child from bullying at school.
Leopold’s personal life, however, “was foggy,” Nataf said. Until an embarrassing incident in 2009 outside a mall in Annapolis, which offered a hint as to what the county executive might have been up to when he wasn’t governing. That January, a police officer, responding to a 911 call about naked people in a parked car, came upon Leopold fully dressed in the back of his county-issued Chevrolet Impala. Later, police said that the call appeared unfounded and did not file a report.
The next year, in the final months of his reelection bid, a former spokeswoman sued him for allegedly discriminating against female employees, referred to as “Leopold’s Angels.” Other former female employees came forward with similar complaints. (Another filed a separate sex discrimination lawsuit two years later.)
In November 2010, Anne Arundel voters returned Leopold to office, swayed — in part — by the three decades Leopold spent going door to door to visit thousands of constituents. His defenders say he became the target of a vendetta by the county’s public-safety unions when he tried to change binding arbitration rules.
“The unions” and the American Civil Liberties Union — which has filed suit over the dossiers on political enemies — “are persecuting the best county executive we have ever had,” one Severna Park supporter, Barbara Houck, wrote in a letter printed in the Annapolis Capital in July. “He has been totally approachable in his political life, always working for every citizen he serves.”
Leopold is the latest in a succession of Maryland public officials who have gone before a judge in recent years, including former Baltimore mayor Sheila Dixon, who was convicted of stealing gift cards intended for needy families; former Prince George’s county executive Jack B. Johnson, who is serving a seven-year prison sentence for a bribery conspiracy; and former state delegate Tiffany Alston (D-Prince George’s), who was stripped of her seat last year after being convicted of improperly using state funds to pay an employee of her law firm.