"There is a chance the judge will give him probation before judgment," he said, "and then he's not convicted and he's back in office."

Benoit believes Leopold can be removed from office now. "From my perspective," he said, "it's over."

Around Anne Arundel County, voters had mixed reactions to the verdict. At the Double-T Diner in Pasadena, a Leopold hangout, Russell Jurmu said the Republican executive had been targeted by political opponents.

"Personally, I think there's a group of people from the beginning of his campaign eight years ago who have tried to get him out of office," the retired materials manager said. "They're not looking at the good he's done in office. They're just trying to get even."

Jurmu said he voted for Leopold in 2006 and again in 2010. "If he did these things, then shame on him," he said. But Jurmu doesn't think Leopold should be removed from office.

Jurmu's wife said she felt sorry for Leopold. "It's sad," said Audrey Jurmu, a retired schoolteacher. "He should have known better. But he wasn't doing anything different from a lot of people in government."

But Bob Burnopp said Leopold should have held himself to a higher standard. "None of us is perfect," the retired account executive said. "But elected officials are in the public trust. They should set an example."

Under the county charter, at least five council members must vote to remove the county executive. The measure, scheduled for a vote Monday, was co-sponsored by Republicans Derek Fink, Richard Ladd and Jerry Walker and Democrats Benoit, Peter Smith and Chris Trumbauer — an indication, though not a guarantee, that it has sufficient support for passage.

Walker, the council chairman, said he didn't know how the vote would go. "I can't speak for my colleagues," he said. "I don't know where the votes are. I can tell you I'll be supporting it."

Grasso, Leopold's most outspoken supporter on the council, was the only member not to sign on.

If there is a concern that Leopold's conviction is not yet official, Grasso and Fink both said, it could be rewritten to take effect only when the conviction becomes official. But by that point, he would be automatically removed under state law.

After removing the executive, it would then be up to the council to select a successor of the same party — in the case of Leopold, another Republican.

The GOP holds a 4-3 majority on the council.

County spokesman David Abrams said Tuesday that Leopold had been suspended under the Maryland Constitution, which was amended by state voters last year to require the suspension of elected officials upon conviction of a crime.

Leopold attorney Bruce Marcus said Tuesday that he was preparing for sentencing and "evaluating what the reach of the state law is."

Fink said he did not believe the council was acting in haste.

"There's been a dark shadow on this county for quite some time," he said. "We needed to show some leadership."

matthew.brown@baltsun.com

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