No Evidence Found That Leopold Acted Wrongly, Police Chief Says

By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Anne Arundel County police chief said yesterday that there is no evidence that County Executive John R. Leopold was doing anything improper when an anonymous caller who spoke of "sexual activity" and possible nudity directed police to his county car in a mall parking lot last month.

Chief James Teare Sr. said in an interview that Leopold, a first-term Republican, emerged from the car "fully dressed" and greeted the responding police officer with a handshake. Leopold seemed neither "disheveled" nor distressed when he stepped out of the back seat, Teare said. The officer looked into the car, which is equipped with tinted windows, through the windshield, the chief said.

"He was able to see inside and was not able to see anyone else in the car," said Teare, who was appointed chief after Leopold took office two years ago. Without evidence of wrongdoing and with only the word of an anonymous caller to go on, Teare said that there was no basis on which to search the car and that the officer did not ask Leopold whether anyone had been with him before he arrived.

"He believed that no crime had taken place or was about to take place, so he departed the scene," Teare said.

Leopold, 66, declined through a spokesman to respond to the police chief's comments.

Until yesterday, Teare had also declined to speak publicly about the incident. The County Council has called him to appear at its Monday meeting to answer questions about the matter.

Reporters who heard rumors about the Jan. 30 incident requested information from police, who released tapes two weeks ago of the 911 calls and some radio traffic between the officer and dispatcher.

The tapes showed that police received an anonymous call from a man who said he saw what looked "like sexual activity" in the back seat of a car parked at the Westfield Annapolis Mall. The caller later added, "I'm not positive, but it looks like there are naked people in the car."

He called police a second time from a phone inside the Nordstrom department store and can be heard on the tapes directing the police car that responded through parking lot rows until it reached a car parked near the M&T Bank near Bestgate Road. That no windows look from Nordstrom to that area of the parking lot has led to speculation that the caller was using a security camera image while directing the officer.

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