Arundel police corporal says, 'You don't tell Mr. Leopold no'

An Anne Arundel County police corporal told a judge Tuesday that County Executive John R. Leopold told him to watch a cash box at a political fundraiser, to plant campaign signs for him, and to compile a dossier on his 2010 challenger.

Cpl. Howard Brown, a former member of Leopold's taxpayer-funded executive protection detail, also described driving Leopold weekly to the parking lot of an Annapolis bowling alley to meet a county employee. After one such meeting, Brown said, Leopold emerged to describe having had a sexual encounter that he rated highly.

Brown said he told Leopold that using him to put up the campaign signs was a "bad idea." But Leopold told him to do it anyway, Brown said, and he did.

"You don't tell Mr. Leopold no," he testified. "I was fearful for what the retribution would be."

Leopold, 69, is battling misconduct charges for allegedly using the detail to run political and personal errands. He has denied wrongdoing.

The two-term county executive, a Republican, is accused of directing police officers to ferry him to sexual liaisons with a county employee, and to keep the woman from meeting his live-in girlfriend.

Leopold is also alleged to have directed officers to drive him around as he uprooted an opponent's campaign signs, to pick up and deposit campaign donations, and to compile dossiers on political adversaries.

Leopold's attorneys say the alleged actions did not rise to the level of crimes.

The case is being heard in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court by retired Judge Dennis M. Sweeney. Leopold decided during jury selection last week to waive his right to a jury trial. His attorneys did not explain that choice.

Brown testified that he resisted putting up campaign signs for Leopold. "I told him I didn't think it was a good idea," Brown said. "I was afraid this might get into the media."

Brown said Leopold told him "not to worry about it." He said he reported his concerns to his supervisor, Maj. Ed Bergin, and then-Police Chief James Teare Sr., but ultimately put up the signs.

Brown said he also watched the cash box at the fundraiser at which Leopold announced his 2010 re-election campaign, and he compiled a dossier on Joanna Conti, Leopold's Democratic challenger.

He also said Leopold directed him to call at least two residents to relay Leopold's concerns that they were not displaying his campaign signs in their yards.

Brown said he donated twice to Leopold's campaign. Brown said no one asked him for the donations, but he believed that they might help improve his relationship with the executive.

When he started working with Leopold, he said, "it seemed as if the executive was constantly angry with me."

But after the first donation, he said, "it was a night-and-day difference."

"I felt as if I was being treated better," he said. "It was a more pleasant atmosphere to be in. I wasn't getting yelled at. He wasn't as abrasive with me."

He said he displayed a Leopold sign in his yard.

Brown also described what he said were weekly meetings between Leopold and a county employee. He said most of the meetings occurred in the parking lot of a bowling alley on Generals Highway near Bestgate Road — the location of Annapolis Bowl — but some occurred elsewhere.

Brown said he would drive Leopold to the meetings after lunch on Tuesdays. Brown said he would look inside the other cars parked in the lot to make sure that they were not occupied, and then position himself so that he could see anyone entering the lot.

He said Leopold would enter the employee's car for the meeting. After at least one such meeting, he said, Leopold described receiving the best oral sex he'd ever had.

Earlier Tuesday, another police corporal testified that the executive protection detail was "getting quirky" under Leopold, and not the same as it had been under former County Executive Janet S. Owens.

Cpl. Joseph Pazulski said he wanted to leave the protection detail, but was concerned about telling Leopold because Leopold had told him of moves he had made to adversely affect county employees' careers.

Pazulski did not explain what was "quirky" about the detail, and prosecutors did not press him on the point.

It was Pazulski's second day on the stand. On Friday, he said that while on duty he had planted campaign signs at Leopold's direction. He said Leopold, who was recovering from back surgery, told him it was all right because he was with Pazulski.

On Friday, the veteran officer said he also had served on the police protection detail for Owens, the first Anne Arundel County executive to have a security detail. Pazulski said he never touched one of her signs, but when a supporter came for one, he would pop the trunk of the car in which they were stored.

Pazulski testified that Leopold grew dependent on his police drivers after suffering debilitating back pain. Leopold would ultimately have two surgeries in 2010 to address his spinal stenosis, which left him dependent on a urinary catheter.

Brown said Leopold directed him to empty his catheter bag, a chore he described as "humiliating." He was the second witness to testify that he drained the bags, after Leopold's scheduling secretary last week.

Tuesday concluded with testimony from Leopold aide Erik Robey on the executive's 2010 re-election campaign.

Robey, who is now Leopold's chief of staff, described a shoestring campaign effectively managed by the executive himself. Robey described handling checks and taking the cherry-red Leopold campaign signs to the candidate's house for distribution to volunteers.

Robey testified that he saw his role as helping Leopold get re-elected "in any way I could."

He is expected to return to the witness stand when the trial resumes Wednesday morning.

State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt, who is arguing the case himself, is expected to call more former members of the executive protection detail, which was disbanded last year.

In his opening statement last week, an attorney for Leopold, Bruce Marcus, said there are no rules, laws or regulations against the actions of which Leopold is accused.

He told Sweeney last week that the "tabloid-like" allegations might reflect Leopold's "poor judgment" and "lack of social grace," but they did not rise to the level of a crime.

Leopold was indicted last March on four counts of misconduct in office and one count of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary.

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.

Leopold has remained in office while under indictment.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

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matthew.brown@baltsun.com

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