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Judge denies Leopold's request for new trial

Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney has denied former Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold's request for a new trial, saying the appeal was "without merit."

Leopold, 70, was convicted last month of misconduct in office.

Sweeney, who presided over the trial, said Leopold broke the law when he ordered his taxpayer-funded police security detail to put up campaign signs, collect contributions and compile dossiers on perceived adversaries during his 2010 re-election campaign, and when he required county workers to drain the urinary catheter bag he used after back surgery.

The two-term Republican resigned Feb. 1. He is scheduled to be sentenced March 14.

In the request for a new trial, Leopold's lawyers repeated arguments they made during the two-week trial and in previous motions. They said the law governing the use of a police security detail is vague and that the conduct alleged did not rise to the level of being criminal.

Leopold could not be reached for comment Thursday. Attorney Robert C. Bonsib, a member of Leopold's defense team, declined to comment.

Also Thursday, a former state solicitor general issued a legal opinion suggesting that County Council Chairman Jerry Walker is ineligible to succeed Leopold as county executive.

The county law office had asked Andrew H. Baida whether a current member of the County Council could legally be appointed to complete Leopold's term.

Baida, now in private practice in Baltimore, said it ws his opinion that no council member could be appointed to the job. He cited a provision in the county charter that states that no sitting council member is "eligible for appointment to any County office, position or employment carrying compensation."

Walker has said he was considering seeking the position. He could not be reached immediately for comment.

Council colleague John Grasso, who said after Leopold's conviction that he would apply for the job, said this week that he had changed his mind.

The deadline for applications is noon Friday. Del. Steven Schuh, who already has an exploratory committee for a 2014 candidacy for the position and more than $500,000 in his campaign account, has said he will apply.

Also among the applicants was John G. Gary, the former Arundel county executive who served from 1994 to 1998. Gary said he has no interest in running again in 2014, and would thus be a politically safe choice for council members.

"If you put someone in there who wants to run in 2014, you'll have contention between everyone who wants to run in 2014," Gary said. "It's a catch-22 for those council members."

Gary said that, if chosen, he would "strictly try to run the government."

Jim Wilhelm, an Annapolis business developer, said Thursday at a candidate forum that he filed. Patrick Jameson, a businessman from Riva, said at the forum that he will file Friday.

Others who have expressed interest include attorney Kendel Ehrlich, wife of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.; acting County Executive John Hammond; and David Cordle, chief investigator in the county prosecutor's office and former Annapolis alderman.

Tom Angelis, a former chief of the county Recreation and Parks Department, said he has filed.

The County Council has 30 days from Leopold's resignation to select a replacement to complete his term, which ends in 2014.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

twitter.com/andsiegel

Baltimore Sun reporter Carrie Wells contributed to this article.

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