Mayor Sheila Dixon received probation before judgment Thursday under a plea deal that required her to step down from office and stamped her with what a judge called "a badge of dishonor.''
Dixon declined to address the court at her sentencing hearing and left the courthouse through a side door without speaking to
reporters. Her resignation takes effect at noon, after which City Council President Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will be sworn in as
A jury convicted Dixon of embezzling about $500 worth of gift cards donated to the city for needy families. She then pleaded guilty to lying about thousands of dollars in gifts from her former boyfriend, a prominent developer.
"Ms. Dixon leaves the office in total disgrace after a career that saw her become the first woman elected to that office,'' said retired Howard County Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney, who was specially assigned to hear her case. "That result in this court's view is a heavy penalty, well justified by the evidence before this court, but still a heavy penalty -- a badge of dishonor that she will live with for the rest of her life.''
Dixon, a 56-year-old Democrat, will serve at least two years of probation. She is required to perform 500 hours of community
service and contribute $45,000 to charities in the city. Once she completes her probation, she would be free to run for office again.
The deal also allows her to keep a lifetime pension worth at least $83,000 a year.
"I think what's important is that we turn the page today,'' said Arnold M. Weiner, Dixon's attorney. "It's the end of one era for the city and the beginning of another.''
Weiner said it would not have been appropriate for Dixon to make a statement in court. She has not apologized publicly for the
actions that led to her downfall, although she has conceded she should have reported the gifts she received from her former
boyfriend, Ronald H. Lipscomb.
Sweeney suggested that the case could have produced a less favorable outcome for Dixon, saying jurors were "generous'' only
to convict her on a single misdemeanor count and that the cases against her "were strong, if not indeed overwhelming.''
"It may be that Ms. Dixon, in her own mind and for her own purposes, persists in her belief that she was unfairly prosecuted on flimsy evidence,'' Sweeney said. "However, that view simply does not stack up with the facts.''
Dixon told The Associated Press after her plea deal that prosecutors had scared Lipscomb into lying about many of the gifts she was alleged to have received from him. Prosecutors cited that interview in a memo filed this week that called her "unwilling, or
unable, to deal with the truth.''
Dixon became mayor in January 2007, taking over for Gov. Martin O'Malley. She easily won election that fall to a four-year term. Many political observers were impressed with her leadership, but her administration stalled after she was indicted in January 2009. The misdeeds that forced her from office all occurred before she became mayor.
Rawlings-Blake, 39, is the daughter of the late Howard P. Rawlings, a longtime state legislator. She was elected to the City Council at age 25 and elected council president in 2007. She has pledged to reform ethics laws and make city government more transparent.
"I hope that the new and welcomed dedication to higher ethical standards is genuine and will have a shelf life that lasts beyond
the next election,'' Sweeney said. "If not, then the city will be doomed to repeat the cycle of petty and tawdry corruption and special entitlement.''