Arundel officer is suspended in probe linked to Leopold

Anne Arundel County police have taken the badge of a former district commander who is now a target in the state prosecutor's investigation, Chief Larry W. Tolliver said Thursday.

Capt. Eric Hodge received a "target letter" this week from the same prosecutors who are pursuing the criminal misconduct case against County Executive John R. Leopold.

Tolliver confirmed the letter and said he suspended Hodge's police powers that day after meeting with State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt and promising the department's cooperation. "They are looking at him for the target of a broader investigation," Tolliver said. "They didn't get into a lot of detail."

Davitt said he would neither confirm nor deny the investigation.

Hodge was placed on administrative duty at Animal Control. He has not been charged with a crime.

Anne Arundel state's attorney spokeswoman Kristin Fleckenstein said prosecutors in her office met with Davitt's team last week about perjury allegations — involving Hodge and other officers — that a county councilman had brought to local prosecutors.

"It was clear that these matters were related to and arising from their case investigating County Executive Leopold," Fleckenstein said. "As such, the decision was made to defer to their office for further action."

The state's attorney's office prosecutes criminal cases in Anne Arundel County, while the state prosecutor conducts investigations into public corruption, election law violations and misconduct by public officials, among other crimes.

It is unclear exactly what Davitt's office may be investigating in connection with Hodge.

Hodge had a role in both Davitt's criminal investigation of Leopold and a separate civil case against the county executive. His suspension comes less than three months before the start of Leopold's misconduct trial.

Leopold has denied wrongdoing in the civil and criminal matters.

A yearlong state prosecutor investigation led a grand jury to indict Leopold on five counts, alleging that he misused his police protection detail for personal and political gain. Hodge was among the officers called to the courthouse as the grand jury heard testimony.

Hodge was also among several officers who have provided sworn statements in a civil lawsuit alleging that Leopold directed police to fire a press aide who complained about the county executive.

Hodge could not be reached for comment.

Perjury allegations against Hodge stem from Leopold's former press aide, Karla R. Hamner. She filed an internal affairs complaint against Hodge in August, contending that he lied in the statements he gave in her civil case, which is pending in federal court. She claimed Hodge's affidavit was at odds with depositions provided by other officers.

Hodge's affidavit said that he was not asked to interfere with the selection process to fill a permanent job in the Police Department for which Hamner was applying. Depositions from four other officers together described a scenario in which Hodge carried out Leopold's alleged order to ensure Hamner did not get the job.

Hodge is the former commander of the department's Western District. He was transferred to emergency operations shortly after the internal investigation concluded. At the time, Tolliver would not comment on the transfer except to say that it was "for the betterment of the agency."

Anne Arundel County Councilman Jamie Benoit, a Democrat from Crownsville, publicly raised concerns about the alleged discrepancies in the sworn statements. In a response to Benoit, Tolliver wrote that Hamner's complaint ended with her claim being "not sustained" — meaning investigators couldn't prove whether or not it was true.

Tolliver said Wednesday that the state prosecutor's investigation "had nothing to do with" the internal affairs probe.

ecox@baltsun.com

asiegel@baltsun.com

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