Judge Finds Leopold Not Guilty on One Misconduct Charge
Circuit Judge Dennis Sweeney said having officers drive Leopold around to remove his opponent's campaign signs did not amount to misconduct in office.
An Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge on Friday found County Executive John Leopold not guilty on one of four counts of misconduct in office.
Leopold still faces three counts of misconduct in office and one count of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary.
Judge Dennis Sweeney said while officers assigned to protect Leopold were present when Leopold allegedly destroyed or removed the campaign signs of his opponent Joanna Conti during the 2010 election, it did not rise to the level of misconduct in office.
"Mr. Leopold may have been able to be charged with the crimes of theft or malicious destruction of property," Sweeny said. "It was not being done in part and parcel of his office, but [it was] being done as a private citizen."
Sweeney's not guilty decision on count two, which dealt with the campaign signs, came in response to the defense's motion for a judgment of acquittal on all five counts. Leopold is accused of tasking the officers assigned to his protection detail with running errands on behalf of the executive's re-election campaign.
If convicted on the fraud charge, Leopold could face up to five years in prison.
Sweeney noted that Leopold's actions in regards to the signs could be considered "ill advised" and showing "poor judgment."
The prosecution rested its case on Thursday, and the defense will start calling witnesses on Friday afternoon.