If convicted of the fraud charge, Leopold could be sentenced to five years in prison. Judges have broad leeway in sentencing for misconduct because the charge carries no specific sanction.

If found guilty, Leopold would be suspended from office and removed when sentenced, under an amendment to the Maryland Constitution approved by voters in November.

An appeal would block the removal, but he would remain suspended.

Sweeney, who presided over the criminal trial of then-Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, is hearing the Leopold case in Anne Arundel Circuit Court in Annapolis.

Baltimore Sun reporter Andrea F. Siegel contributed to this article.

matthew.brown@baltsun.com

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