Attorneys for former Anne Arundel county executive John R. Leopold went before a three-judge panel Wednesday to try to persuade it to vacate Leopold’s conviction for misconduct. Doing so would allow the 71-year-old Republican to run for public office again.
Leopold was convicted of misconduct in office last year after a salacious trial that featured a series of former employees describing menial and sometimes humiliating chores that Leopold had them perform, such as draining his catheter and chauffeuring him to parking-lot sexual liaisons with a county employee.
He was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment, with all but 60 days suspended. He spent 30 days in jail and 30 days on home arrest. He also was fined $100,000 and put on probation for five years.
Leopold has served his time. Vacating his conviction would give him a clean record and lift the conditions of his probation, including a ban on seeking public office — the only kind of work he has ever really known. He previously served in the Hawaii and Maryland legislatures. He stepped down as county executive shortly after his conviction.
Given all of Leopold’s legal baggage, is a second act in politics possible? “It seems like a kind of crazy notion at this point,” said Dan Nataf, director of the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College.
Leopold was not on hand Wednesday to watch attorney Bruce Marcus make the case to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals that Leopold’s behavior did not rise to the level of a crime but was merely “boorish.”
Many of the judges’ questions revolved around Leopold’s treatment of his scheduler, Patricia Medlin, who testified at the 2013 trial that several times a day for months, she had to go to Leopold’s private bathroom, get on her hands and knees, and drain the catheter, even after he was able to do it himself.
Leopold needed the catheter after back surgery. Marcus argued that there was nothing wrong with asking for help with “a medical need.”
Judge Alexander Wright asked state prosecutor Emmet Davitt what the “tipping point” was that turned Leopold’s request for help draining his catheter unlawful.
“Was the tipping point that he was able to do it himself?” Wright asked. “Was it the first day he asked? Is that a crime?”
“I think the crime is ordering her to do it,” said Davitt, who argued that Leopold abused his authority because his employees felt they risked losing their jobs if they refused.
Marcus also said that Leopold’s due process rights were violated because the prosecution charged him with one thing — misfeasance, which are lawful acts done improperly — but then prosecuted him for something different — malfeasance, which are unlawful acts.
Davitt argued that whether prosecutors charged Leopold with misfeasance or malfeasance was a question of “semantics” and that the allegations the state made against Leopold never changed.
A decision is expected in the next few months.
Leopold was first elected county executive in 2006 after serving 18 years in the Maryland legislature. He was best known for his tireless campaigning and could regale reporters with stories about the hundreds of doors he knocked on and thousands of hands he shook.
He won over constituents with his remarkable memory for details, such as the names of their children or pets.
The allegations of misconduct came on the heels of a 2010 lawsuit by former employee Karla Hamner, who accused him of discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation. Hamner settled the case in September.
In addition, the ACLU of Maryland has sued Leopold over dossiers he had his security detail put together on his critics and opponents.