ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Former Anne Arundel County executive John R. Leopold can run for office, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals ruled Wednesday.
The appeals court, however, upheld Leopold’s conviction of official misconduct for misusing his security detail.
Leopold, 71, resigned from office last year after being convicted of two counts of misconduct for ordering officers to empty his catheter bag and put up campaign signs for his 2010 campaign.
Retired Circuit Court Judge Dennis Sweeney sentenced Leopold to 60 days in jail, plus fines and community service. He was also put on five years’ probation, with the stipulation that he not run for office during that time period.
Lawyers for Leopold immediately filed an appeal, arguing that prosecutors’ definition of misconduct was too vague. They also argued Leopold, also a former state delegate representing the Pasadena area, should be allowed to run for office.
In the 27-page opinion, appellate judges in part sided with Sweeney, who chastised Leopold’s behavior as “outrageous” and “egregious.”
“The person of ordinary intelligence would know that it is a violation of the law to direct your subordinates to engage in illegal activity, or to oppressively and willfully abuse his or her authority to require an employee to perform offensive and unnecessary tasks wholly beyond their job descriptions,” the three-judge panel wrote in its opinion.
But judges agreed with defense attorneys' arguments that it's not up to the trial courts to determine if he can seek elected office.
“Because the Maryland Constitution and County Charter provide a method by which to remove the county executive, we agree with Leopold that the circuit court, by prohibiting Leopold from being a candidate for elected office as a special condition of probation, improperly interfered with the process that has been put in place,” the opinion read.
The filing deadline to run for office this year was Feb. 25.
Jared DeMarinis, director of the candidacy and campaign finance division for the state Board of Elections, said Leopold's only option if he wants to run for office this year is to mount a write-in campaign.
"I don't know how successful those have been in Maryland," DeMarinis said.
Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt said he was pleased the appeals court upheld Leopold's conviction.
"All along we felt Mr. Leopold had a fair trial," said Davitt, adding he hasn't had a chance to review the part of the opinion that dealt with Leopold's probation.
"I guess it'll be up to the voters," he said.
Defense attorney Bruce Marcus wasn't immediately available for comment. Leopold also did not return a call seeking comment.
He declined to talk about his case last week, but said he misses being in office and hopes to have the chance to serve again .
Earlier this year, an Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge dismissed a civil case filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland over dossiers mentioned in the original 2012 indictment of Leopold. The ACLU, on behalf of 11 plaintiffs, sued Leopold, former Anne Arundel County police chief James Teare and the Anne Arundel County government to get copies of the dossiers, which officers allegedly kept on Leopold’s enemies.
Leopold was also dropped as a defendant in two discrimination and retaliation lawsuits, both filed in U.S. District Court by former employees. One case was settled for $110,000, while the other is pending.