One of Maryland’s top politicians used his security detail to set up weekly sexual encounters with a subordinate in Annapolis parking lots, to maintain dossiers on political opponents and to make sure his two lovers never ran into each other, according to an indictment released Friday.
Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold, one of the state’s highest-ranking elected Republicans and a fixture for nearly three decades in power circles in the state capital, was indicted Friday on multiple counts of official misconduct in the alleged use of county police officers for personal and political gain.
Leopold, 69, was not arrested, and his attorney suggested that he would not step down.
The indictment by an Anne Arundel grand jury marks the latest charges in a succession of local and federal corruption prosecutions that have recently cast a pall over Maryland politics.
Leopold’s indictment comes more than three years after an anonymous 911 call describing naked people in the back of a rocking car led a police officer to a busy Annapolis mall parking lot and a car containing Leopold.
That incident prompted a number of county employees to come forward with allegations of sexual harassment by Leopold. But he remained in office and won reelection in 2010.
“It’s sad, and it’s disappointing. . . . Now it will be more of a distraction again,” said Anne Arundel County Council member James Benoit (D-Crownsville). “These charges are really serious. It’s going to be a tough few months for the county.”
With the charges, Leopold becomes the latest Maryland politician to face a reckoning after being dogged for years by rumors of corruption.
In recent months, Prince George’s County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) and his wife, Leslie, a former County Council member, were sentenced to prison in connection with a bribery scheme involving developers. The campaign manager to former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) was found guilty of attempting to suppress black voter turnout. And a corruption probe against state Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s) ended with an acquittal in court but left the powerful budget chair as the first sitting Maryland lawmaker to be censured in two decades.
Jim Cabezas, a spokesman for the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor, which led the investigation of Leopold, said a criminal summons was sent to Leopold’s attorney. Leopold was indicted on four counts of misconduct in office and one count of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary.
The misappropriation charge is a criminal misdemeanor that would carry a sentence of one to five years. The remaining charges allege common-law violations, which means a judge would have wide latitude in sentencing if Leopold is found guilty.
Bruce Marcus, Leopold’s attorney, said in a brief phone interview that he had not received the summons or seen the indictment.
In an e-mailed statement to reporters, he said that although he had not received the documents, “we understand that the charges contain scurrilous, salacious and scandalous accusations better suited to cheap tabloids and not befitting charging documents filed in a Maryland court of law.”
Marcus, who is also an attorney for the Maryland Democratic Party, said Leopold remains an effective leader.
“The public should have confidence that John R. Leopold has a well-documented history of exemplary public service,” Marcus said. “The citizens of the county can . . . have confidence that Mr. Leopold will continue to well and truly serve their interests during the days ahead.”
According to the state prosecutor’s office, Leopold used his county security staff to carry out tasks ranging from the intimate to the demeaning.
To facilitate an affair with an employee of the county’s department of parks and recreation, Leopold had his security staff drive him to commercial parking lots as often as two or three times a week to rendezvous with his lover.
Leopold would order his security officers to leave him at the car of the subordinate and to “remain in the same parking lot, but at some distance away.”
Such meetings lasted 45 minutes or longer, and upon returning to his police escorts, Leopold “at times commented to them in graphic language about his sexual encounter.”
To conceal that relationship from another woman, with whom Leopold lived, the indictment alleges that the county executive went even further in abusing his power when he was hospitalized twice in 2010 for back surgery.
Leopold ordered members of his security detail to work 170 hours of overtime guarding his hospital room to make sure the parks employee never entered his room and encountered his live-in partner.
The overtime tab topped $10,000, according to the indictment.
Leopold also used his police escorts to chauffeur him to roadside spots to vandalize his opponents’ campaign signs in 2010, according to the indictment.
With police idling nearby, according to the documents, the county executive ripped campaign signs out of the ground, threw one down a ravine and tossed another up a hillside.
His security staff was also ordered to haul hundreds of his campaign signs to and from his home and collect and deposit contributions into his campaign bank account.
After the first of the two back surgeries in 2010, Leopold required a urinary catheter secured to his ankle. He ordered his security detail and other staffers to periodically empty the bag.
In more menial chores, members of his police detail were required to run personal errands for him, “including but not limited to” doing his personal banking, picking up his newspaper, delivering takeout dinners, and purchasing and delivering personal gifts from Leopold to others, according to the indictment.
No one answered the door Friday night at Leopold’s home in Pasadena.
Staff writers Greg Masters and William Wan and researcher Madonna Lebling contributed to this report.