Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold's defense attorneys will begin making their case Friday, arguing that his alleged use of county staff for personal errands and political gain does not amount to a crime.
The move comes after prosecutors rested their case Thursday afternoon in the misconduct trial, having called more than a dozen witnesses over four days. State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt said he felt "good" about his case.
Witnesses have included former officers on the protection detail who testified that they put up political signs, picked up campaign checks and dry cleaning, and ferried Leopold to sexual encounters with a female county employee. Officers also said they drained urine from a catheter bag he used after back surgery and delivered his weekend newspapers — making sure to remove the advertising inserts first.
That work was performed while on the job, they said, and some was done on overtime.
Leopold is fighting four counts of misconduct in office and one of misappropriation of funds by a fiduciary. The 69-year-old Republican has denied wrongdoing.
If convicted of the fraud charge, Leopold could be sentenced to up to five years in prison. Judges have broad leeway on sentences for misconduct in office because the charge carries no specific penalty.
Lead defense attorney Bruce Marcus told Sweeney last week that the allegations might reflect Leopold's "poor judgment" and "lack of social grace," but did not reach the level of a crime. He said Leopold came to rely more on his staff due to back pain and two surgeries in 2010.
Witnesses have testified that there was no manual — no rules or regulations — for the detail's work.
Leopold's lawyers could begin by asking for immediate acquittal, a common practice in criminal trials. They are prepared to begin presenting defense witnesses, but they declined to say whom they might call or whether Leopold would take the witness stand in his defense.
Not called by prosecutors to testify was James Teare Sr., the police chief whose abrupt retirement last summer ended a criminal investigation by the state prosecutor — the same office that is prosecuting Leopold. Prosecutors have alleged that Teare did nothing about officers' complaints about Leopold.
Sgt. Timothy Phelan, a former supervisor of the executive protection unit, testified Thursday that he took many of the complaints about Leopold directly to Teare, though some went to Phelan's supervisors.
But nothing came of them, he said. "Nothing ever got remedied," he testified.
Citing job stress, Phelan asked in 2009 to be moved from the detail supervision, landing in special enforcement, conditioned on his continuing to work the protection detail every fifth weekend for overtime, he said.
Phelan's testimony included remarks that "per the chief," he told his officers that part of the job was to keep Leopold happy.
On cross-examination, Phelan acknowledged that he had signed off on a grant of immunity from prosecution but said he didn't think he'd done anything criminal.
Jared DeMarinis, who heads campaign finance at the Maryland State Board of Elections, took the witness stand briefly. As finance reports were entered as evidence, he testified that Leopold's campaign committee reported before the 2010 primary that it had more than $500,000 in its account.
The prosecution has alleged that during his 2010 re-election campaign, Leopold relied heavily on his county staff. One of Leopold's top aides testified earlier in the week that Leopold rebuffed his suggestion that the campaign pay college students a few thousand dollars to put up the signs.
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