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Crime

Uncontested on the campaign trail, State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess plans to stay focused on the job

After trying the highest-profile homicide case in Anne Arundel County’s recent history, State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess is not facing opposition by either major political party this election season, and said she’ll use the spare time to “concentrate on the job at hand.”

“I’m very excited,” Leitess said in her office last week, flanked by gifts from several crime victims and their families. Over several decades of prosecuting, she said she’s made long-lasting friendships with those who she met at their most vulnerable stages in life.

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Leitess, a Democrat, has never been challenged by a member of her own party in a primary race for the county’s top prosecutor. She said she doesn’t see the job as a political post.

“I don’t inject politics into it, you just have to apply the law — and do the job,” Leitess said.

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Leitess is the first state’s attorney candidate to run unopposed by either party in Anne Arundel since Warren Duckett held the post, making it through three election cycles, 1978, 1982 and 1986, without an opponent.

Starting as a prosecutor in Baltimore City the day after she was admitted to the bar in 1988, and moving to the Anne Arundel State’s Attorney’s Office in 1990, Leitess was first appointed to her office’s top prosecutorial post in 2013, before losing her first electoral bid to then-Prince George’s County assistant state’s attorney Wes Adams.

She then went to a supervisory role at the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office, but she wouldn’t give up trying cases herself when she saw them as “grave injustices,” such as “dozens” of infant deaths.

Describing herself as a “heck of a workhorse,” Leitess said she tends to go into the courtroom herself when cases require “a little more when you have to put the pieces of the puzzle together.”

When she unseated Adams in 2018, Leitess inherited a handful of major homicide cases which she later tried herself — four Aryan Brotherhood members accused in the murder of a Jessup Correctional Institution inmate, and the gunman who killed Gerald Fischman, Rob Hiaasen, John McNamara, Rebecca Smith and Wendi Winters in the Capital Gazette newsroom.

While Leitess doesn’t believe she can fully attribute her pre-election victory to the outcome of the Capital Gazette shooting case, which concluded last year when the perpetrator was sentenced to multiple life terms without parole, she said the mass shooting case that shocked Annapolis was formational to her as a prosecutor— she developed close relationships with the victims’ families, the survivors of the attack and other branches of law enforcement that were involved in the case, receiving a “deeper understanding of trauma” from them.

Leitess is now helping the FBI’s behavioral analysis unit, as well as fellow prosecutors in other jurisdictions, following the mass shooting trial where she successfully argued the gunman was not insane.

“I see it as the culmination of over 30 years of work,” she said. “It’s kind of like I was toiling in obscurity, but now you see me.”

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She sees her lack of opposition as a testament to her work over the past three decades as well as her time heading the office, she said, touting the office’s creation of specialized units and positions for emerging trends in criminal justice.

One of those units focuses on reviewing and processing police body-worn camera footage, videos which the prosecutor said can be “very powerful” in domestic violence cases where witnesses may be reluctant to testify, or in police accountability cases. Another unit established during Leitess’ tenure specializes in prosecuting fatal motor vehicle crashes, cases where further investigation can reveal a defendant’s pattern of drunken or reckless driving.

Her office has also established positions, using grant money, to assist children who are victims of crimes, and to intervene when middle school-aged children are on a track which could lead to criminal behavior.

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Leitess said she doesn’t plan to retire from the job any time soon, noting that she “love[s] this job.”

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Delayed by redistricting challenges, this year’s primary election will be held on July 19. The deadline to register to vote is June 28.

Unaffiliated and write-in candidates, as well as those affiliated with a non-principal party, have until July 5 to declare their intention to get onto the ballot for the general election.

Leitess isn’t worried about any opposition, joking that she just needs to survive and get one vote to succeed.

“As long as I keep eating well, and make it until then, I’m good,” she said.


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