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Protesters in downtown Annapolis call for Leopold ouster

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Protesters held signs reading "Leopold must go!" "Spying un-American" and "Resign now" outside Anne Arundel County government headquarters Monday, criticizing an embattled county executive who faces allegations that he used his county police detail to investigate political opponents.

About a dozen people attended the protest near the Arundel Center to voice their disdain for County Executive John R. Leopold. He was indicted and charged March 2 with four counts of misconduct in office and one count of misappropriating county funds.

The indictment alleged that Leopold, a two-term Republican, used his taxpayer-funded security detail to arrange frequent sexual rendezvous with a county employee, and to perform a host of political and personal chores. Monday's protesters seized especially on the alleged investigations of political opponents.

Lewis A. Bracy, a Severn resident who organized the protest, wore a tuxedo and red bow tie.

"I decided to wear a tuxedo today to show him what class is," said Bracy, a retired federal police officer who applied unsuccessfully last month for a vacant seat on the County Council. "He's shown a lack of class — having sex in a parking lot. We just want a leader who doesn't embarrass us — who doesn't bring shame to the county. Spying on our citizens? We done jumped down from Watergate to Arundelgate."

Through a spokesman, Leopold, 69, declined to comment on the protest. He has said he will not resign and has vowed to fight the charges.

Leopold's case will be heard by retired Howard County Judge Dennis M. Sweeney, according to an order issued Friday by Nancy Davis-Loomis, Anne Arundel County's administrative judge.

Terri Bolling, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Judiciary, said Davis-Loomis thought it would be "wise" to choose a judge from outside Anne Arundel.

"It's not unusual for a case that's high-profile with a politician or some other public figure to have a judge from outside the area preside," said Bolling. "She determined that if the case is going to remain in Anne Arundel County, it would be wise to have a judge who rarely sits in Anne Arundel County."

Sweeney, who presided over former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon's 2009 corruption trial, declined to comment when reached Monday.

Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt and Leopold's attorney, Bruce L. Marcus, also declined to comment.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has asked the county to release all of its records relating to allegations in the indictment that Leopold directed officers on his security detail to compile dossiers on his foes. The indictment alleges several people were investigated, including Carl O. Snowden, director of the Office of Civil Rights for the state attorney general, and Joanna L. Conti, an Annapolis business executive and Democrat who challenged Leopold in his 2010 re-election campaign.

Joanna Hanes-Lahr, an Annapolis resident, called the allegation "scary."

"I am appalled that the county executive has so little respect for his office and the citizens that he remains in office … and he doesn't even answer questions," said Hanes-Lahr, a retired communications executive. "Opening files on private citizens? That was time to say enough."

Two police unions voted no confidence last week in Leopold and Police Chief James E. Teare Sr., and called for them to resign. The indictment alleges that Teare was made aware of some allegations against Leopold but took no action. Teare has said he will not resign.

County Councilman Jerry Walker, a Gambrills Republican, left the Arundel Center during the protest but declined to comment.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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