(Washington, DC) – State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess and the Office of the State’s Attorney were honored on June 22, 2022, at the National Press Club with the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) SHIELD Award for her successful prosecution of Joseph Leissler, the leader of the Aryan Brotherhood in Maryland. A jury found Leissler, who was incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Jessup, guilty of ordering the 2016 murder of inmate John O’Sullivan, an elder in a rival gang. In August 2021, Leissler was convicted on all counts including supervising a criminal gang, participation in a criminal gang resulting in death, and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. He was sentenced to life without parole.
The lead investigator in the case, Sergeant Christopher Taylor (Maryland State Police), and former Anne Arundel County Assistant State’s Attorneys Samantha Mildenberg and Judge Theresa Morse were also recognized for their contributions which lead to a guilty plea for one co-defendant and the cooperation of another former gang member who testified at trial. In 2020, Ms. Leitess tried two of the three gang members who carried out Leissler’s orders to murder O’Sullivan. She then prosecuted Leissler the next year.
“I would like to thank the Anti-Defamation League for this distinguished honor,” said State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess. “As a prosecutor, I pursue justice without partiality or prejudice for all victims of crime. In this instance, Mr. O’Sullivan was a victim of retaliatory gang violence, despite his attempt to keep the peace in this case. This investigation and prosecution had a significant impact in dismantling the gang’s organization, whose foundation is built on bias and bigotry against other races. I am grateful for the work of Sgt. Taylor, the Maryland State Police Homicide Unit and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services – Intelligence and Investigative Division, which investigates criminal activity within Maryland’s prisons. I also thank Ms. Mildenberg and Judge Morse for their work which contributed to the successful outcome of these cases.”
The ADL Washington, DC Regional Office (serving DC/VA/MD/NC) created the SHIELD Awards in 2010 to annually honor law enforcement professionals. The awards recognize individuals, agencies, task forces, and teams for successful investigations and prosecutions which have prevented and responded to hate crimes, domestic and international terrorism, genocide, and war crimes.
About the Anti-Defamation League (ADL): ADL is the leading anti-hate organization in the world. Founded in 1913, its timeless mission is “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all.” Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of antisemitism and bias, using innovation and partnerships to drive impact. A global leader in combating antisemitism, countering extremism and battling bigotry whenever it happens, ADL works to protect democracy and ensure a just and inclusive society for all.