Leopold Trial Focuses on Campaign Signs, Contributions
Day three of the misconduct trial of County Executive John Leopold centered around his re-election campaign and its operations.
The third day of testimony in the misconduct trial against Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold centered around his 2010 election campaign.
Leopold faces a five-count indictment, which includes four counts of misconduct in office and one count of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary. His bench trial in front of Circuit Court Judge Dennis Sweeny started in Annapolis on Friday.
Leopold's Campaign Signs
Cpl. Mark Walker, a 24-year veteran with the Anne Arundel County Police, testified that he placed, distributed and removed campaign signs from around the county during Leopold's 2010 re-election bid.
Walker was assigned to Leopold's executive protection unit—a group of officers tasked with protecting the county executive.
"Leopold told me to go put up signs in different locations in the county," Walker said. "He would give me a list with addresses to go to."
Walker said he placed and checked on signs for Leopold each morning he was assigned to protect him from June of 2010 until Election Day. The task would take him between two and three hours to complete.
Cpl. Joesph Pazulski, a 25-year veteran of the Anne Arundel County Police Department, testified on Friday that he put up between 40 and 50 campaign signs for Leopold during the 2010 election.
Leopold appointee Erik Robey, who worked as the county's head of constituent services in 2010, also testified to hearing his boss instruct officers to check on campaign signs.
Robey said he volunteered for Leopold's campaign because "I believed in what we were doing." He also said no one on the campaign ever mentioned feeling forced into volunteering.
"I never ordered anyone to work on the campaign," Robey said.
When the defense asked Walker whether he thought his actions during the 2010 election amounted to a crime, he said no.
Joanna Conti's Campaign Signs
While driving Leopold along Jumpers Hole Road near East West Highway one afternoon, Walker said Leopold asked him to stop the car near a campaign sign belonging to Leopold's opponent Joanna Conti.
"Leopold said 'that’s an illegal sign,'" Walker said. "He got out of the vehicle, went up the hill to the sign and threw it in the woods."
Sgt. Gregory Speed also testified to driving Leopold around early one morning in October 2010 and stopping at various locations to remove at least four of Conti's signs.
On cross-examination, Speed said he discussed the incident with former Police Chief James Teare who asked whether Conti's signs were located on county rights-of-way, which are public property.
"I would say on the last three [signs] were without a doubt, but I’m not sure on the first one," Speed said.
County election law states that campaign signs must be located on private property. The law also grants the county permission to remove illegally placed signs.
Walker testified to picking up envelopes that he believed contained campaign contributions from the Anne Arundel County Fire Department's union offices, the Blue Dolphin restaurant in Gambrills and the Double T Diner in Annapolis.
Michael Stavlas, whose family owns the Blue Dolphin, briefly testified on Wednesday that he gave a check for $4,000 to a man who came to see him on Leopold's behalf.
Walker also said he drove 45 minutes to Woodlawn in order to collect a check from developer Edward St. John.
He said Leopold was upset when a donation from St. John was less than expected and when the Pasadena Republican learned St. John had also donated to his opponent's campaign.
Robey testified to contacting St. John about receiving a $22,000 check when Leopold was allegedly promised a $30,000 donation. Once St. John agreed to write Leopold's campaign a second check, Walker was dispatched to retrieve it.
Dossiers on Political Opponents
Conti, Leopold's opponent in the 2010 election, took the stand on Wednesday afternoon to review a file about her and her husband that the prosecution alleges was compiled by Leopold's protection unit.
In flipping through the file, Conti said it appeared to center around investments made by her husband and his company.
The accusations over Leopold's alleged "enemies list" has lead to a separate lawsuit filed in December by the American Civil Liberties Union to release documents on 11 people—including Conti—who believe files were compiled against them.
Robey testified to receiving the file compiled by Cpl. Howard Brown, but said the file "didn’t have much value at all."
"Most of the information was info I already found concerning her," Robey said.
A point emphasized by the defense, who repeated that the information would be available to anyone through a Google search.