Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold's defense strategy in his misconduct trial has started to emerge as the prosecution concluded its case.
Defense attorney Bruce Marcus spent the past four days hammering home the arguments that no guidelines exist for officers assigned to the county executive's protection unit and that Leopold's two back surgeries in 2010 severely limited his "self-reliant" nature causing him to lean on an inner circleof associates.
Leopold faces a five-count indictment, which includes four counts of misconduct in office and one count of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary. Leopold waived his right to a jury trial, opting instead to let Circuit Court Judge Dennis Sweeny decide his fate.
During the final day of testimony from prosecution witnesses, Sgt. Timothy Phelan, who worked on Leopold's security detail, said the county executive stopped him from placing a campaign sign near the Double T Diner in Glen Burnie in 2010.
"As I was getting it out of the truck and I put the metal stand into the sign, he stated that he had to do it because I wasn’t supposed to be doing it," Phelan said.
Cpl. Mark Walker and Cpl. Joesph Pazulski both previously testified to installing dozens of Leopold campaign signs during the Pasadena Republican's re-election bid.
Pazulski said Leopold told it was OK for the officer to place the signs while Leopold recovered from back surgery.
Marcus called the surgeries "a watershed event" that changed the way Leopold ran his campaign and lived his life. He pressed all the officers on whether requests by Leopold to run personal errands like picking up laundry and fetching the morning paper happened after the executive's first operation in February 2010.
In his opening statement, Marcus alluded to the idea that Leopold leaned on these officers, whom he had come to trust as friends, and that perhaps in hindsight that trust was misplaced.
Each officer also testified that they did not think the tasks Leopold asked them to perform were illegal. Marcus then asked why each officer requested immunity in exchange for their testimony.
"Because I had seen what Mr. Leopold had done to other county employees," Phalen said.
Phalen also testified to both repeatedly complaining and passing along the complaints of other officers about Leopold's requests to former Police Chief James Teare.
"I most certainly did say I no longer wish to be a part of this," Phelan said.
Teare, who resigned from office in August, was noticeably absent from the prosecution's witness list.
Marcus said he plans to call witnesses for the defense on Friday, but he declined to comment on whether Teare is on his list.
The prosecution wrapped up its case by presenting a series of witnesses and documents backing up previous testimony.
Jared DeMarinis, from the state board of elections, confirmed that Leopold was a candidate for county executive in 2010. And Andrea Fulton, who oversees the personnel department for Anne Arundel County, confirmed that she prepared documents on overtime pay for Leopold's protection unit.
The defense asked Fulton to also confirm that the officers assigned to Leopold were merit employees—meaning that Leopold had no authority to fire them.
Special Agent Aimee Shreves, who works for the prosecutor's office, was also sworn in and provided the first numbers on how much overtime pay the officers on Leopold's security detail received.
According to her documents, Paluski, Brown, Walker and Phelan worked a combined 1,475 overtime hours in 2010—56 percent of which was on the weekend.
The defense pointed out that Shreeves didn't specify what the officers were doing during those hours—some of which were spent protecting Leopold at area events.
Shreeves did testify that Brown and Walker, members of the personal security detail, racked up $10,286.74 in overtime pay while guarding Leopold during his two hospitalizations for back surgery at Anne Arundel Medical Center in 2010.
Both police officers testified that Leopold asked them to stay at the hospital to make sure Connie Casalena, a county employee and Leopold's alleged mistress, was kept away.
Casalena is reported to have tried to see Leopold at the hospital while Walker was out running errands for the executive. Walker said that afterward Leopold asked for two officers to work in shifts at the hospital so Casalena couldn't return.
The officers also said they didn't believe Casalena posed a security threat.
The hospital's head of security Sgt. Rodney Gettman testified that Leopold was placed on restricted visitors list.
"That means if somebody comes to the desk or calls into the hospital switchboard looking for somebody, they’re not there," Gettman said.
The defense countered by having Gettman admit that Leopold was placed on that list after being admitted in February 2010.
The defense plans to submit a motion for judgement of acquittal on Friday morning. Marcus said this is a standard motion submitted by nearly all defense attorneys that argues the prosecution has failed to meet "bare bones" burdens of proof for its charges.
If Judge Sweeny denies his motion, the defense's case will begin Friday morning.
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