Former Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold will spend at least 30 days in jail for his misconduct in office, a sentence that went beyond what prosecutors were seeking.
Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge Dennis Sweeney sentenced the 70-year-old Republican politician to two years of incarceration with all but 60 days suspended for abusing his authority.
Leopold, who was led from the court in handcuffs, will serve at least 30 days in the county detention center, after which he will serve an additional 30 days of home detention. Sweeney also imposed a $100,000 fine, probation and 400 hours of community service.
Leopold, who did not testify at his trial and resigned from office after his conviction, took responsibility Thursday for having his security detail and staff perform personal and political errands, including collecting campaign contribution checks and emptying his catheter bag. Leopold was cleared of other misconduct charges stemming from his use of his protection officers to ferry him to sexual encounters in a bowling alley parking lot and to keep his live-in girlfriend and his mistress apart while he was hospitalized in 2010.
“I should have known not to make these requests, and I am deeply sorry and ashamed to have done so,” Leopold told the judge. “For my irresponsible failures in judgment, I am truly sorry, and I want the court to know that I will never commit these errors in judgment again.”
The revelations about Leopold’s behavior have transfixed Maryland’s fourth-largest county for more than three years. The popular politician was renowned for his personal touch with Anne Arundel’s 500,000 residents. He won reelection in 2010 despite a sex discrimination suit filed against him by a former spokesman and despite a 911 call about naked people in a parked car that led police to Leopold’s county-issued Chevrolet Impala. Leopold was fully clothed and police did not file a report, but the story leaked out anyway.
Leopold attorney Bruce Marcus argued that his client’s career in public service — including efforts to help the homeless and improve public education — should be taken into account in meting out his punishment. Marcus and fellow defense attorney Robert Bonsib were pushing for only probation.
Leopold’s live-in girlfriend, Jane Miller, also asked for leniency, saying she knows Leopold “better than anyone else in this world” and that he was remorseful.
State prosecutor Emmet Davitt recommended a one-year suspended prison sentence, a $100,000 fine, 500 hours of community service and five years of probation. Davitt called the recommendation “compassionate and charitable” for a man who had abused his staff.
But Sweeney said he thought a suspended sentence would not be enough for Leopold’s transgressions and that “some period of incarceration is needed to send the message to public officials tempted to violate their public obligations.”
Davitt said after the sentencing that he thought the judge’s sentence would have the intended effect on elected officials.
“It’s our hope now with the resolution of this case that the county can move on, that the county executive’s office can again be an institution of public integrity, public service, rather than a den of depravity, which it appeared it had degenerated to over the last few years,” he said.
Joan Harris, a former Leopold employee who has filed a civil suit against him, applauded the judge’s actions.
“It was a great feeling to see Mr. Leopold go out in handcuffs, and he’s headed off to jail where he belongs,” she said. “I think the only remorse that Mr. Leopold has is the fact that he was caught, and he was prosecuted, and now he’s on his way to jail.”
But Carol Vitek, a former aide to Leopold who sent a letter to Sweeney in his support, said she thought the judge should be fired.
“He didn’t even give him the dignity of going out of that courtroom without the handcuffs,” she said. “I mean he’s not what you’d call a bad criminal. Jesus, this is awful.”
Annys Shin contributed to this story.