Opponents of Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby have formed a super PAC, one of the first salvos in what could be a bruising fight for the office of the city's top prosecutor.
The political action committee, called Bmore Safe Now PAC, was registered May 17 with the Maryland State Board of Elections. The PAC posted an 18-second attack ad online on its website last week called "Change starts at the top" that calls attention to the city's rising homicide rate since Mosby took office.
"Mosby's unethical behavior, naked ambition, and dangerous inexperience, has allowed innumerable violent repeat offenders to wreak havoc on our great city," the group's website reads.
Reached for comment, Mosby issued a statement through her office's spokeswoman, Melba Saunders.
"The people of Baltimore ... understand that the city is facing an unprecedented surge in violent crime and homicides, and it will take much more than attack ads from wealthy lawyers to stem the tide," Saunders said in an email. "These type of attacks are insulting to the people of Baltimore who wake up every day committed to making our city better."
A spokesman for Bmore Safe Now, defense attorney Joshua Insley, said the group represents a wide array of interests with a shared goal of opposing Mosby. They include defense attorneys, former prosecutors, law enforcement and community members, he said.
"There's going to be some strange bedfellows," he said.
Insley said Mosby's rhetoric on criminal justice reform doesn't match her actions, and the state's attorney's office has been in disarray during her tenure.
"Basically we're going to show how the sausage is made, expose the truth regarding the public statements of the office versus the reality of what is going on in court," Insley said. "We're countering the false narrative that Marilyn Mosby is somehow a populist."
In Maryland, a Super PAC can accept unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and individuals, but cannot be affiliated with or give money to candidates.
"There's definitely significance to the fact that a super PAC has formed in opposition to a sitting prosecutor," said Roger Hartley, dean of the University of Baltimore's College of Public Affairs. "That's a big deal, because nationally we're starting to see more national money pour into local races."
One candidate, attorney Charles N. Curlett, has confirmed that he plans to challenge Mosby in the Democratic primary next year, though he also applied as part of a team to become the court-appointed monitor to oversee the Baltimore Police consent decree. He said he wouldn't run if his team is selected.
Attorney Ivan Bates also has formed a campaign committee and said he is considering a run. The Democratic primary will be held in June 2018.
The state's attorney's election is not typically a high-dollar race in Baltimore, but that could change this election cycle. Mosby was propelled to national recognition in 2015 when, at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, she filed charges against the police officers involved in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray.
Since then, she has traveled the country receiving praise from civil rights groups and others. But she also became a focus for criticism.
Saunders, the state's attorney's office spokeswoman, said: "The people of Baltimore understand that State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby is in the community every day fighting for them and fighting to take violent criminals off our streets, which is evident through our 93 percent felony conviction rate."
Bmore Safe Now's chairman is listed as Richard Winelander, a defense attorney who has a law firm in Baltimore and is a registered Baltimore County voter.
The PAC's online ad uses a clip from Mosby's 2013 campaign kickoff speech, where she decries the city's crime rate. Mosby's campaign focused heavily on fighting crime, contending that incumbent Gregg L. Bernstein was not doing enough to bring down a homicide count that reached 211 victims the year of the election.
In Mosby's first year in office, the city recorded 344 homicides, the highest total since 1993 and the highest per-capita rate ever. This year, the number of killings is on pace to top 300 victims for the third straight year.
Mosby has said that the increase in homicides is a cyclical occurrence driven by deeply entrenched social problems. This week, her office was scheduled to hold the first of 11 weeks of free Friday night events for youths, with the goal of keeping them out of trouble.
"I'm horrified by the crimes that still plague this city, the robberies, the rapes, the burglaries, the murders," Mosby says in the online attack ad. The rising homicide rate then flashes on the screen, and Mosby can be heard saying: "Things don't change in Baltimore City."
The last remark in the ad is an excerpt from her campaign speech. The full quote came as Mosby referred to a neighbor from her hometown of Boston, who offered to cooperate with authorities after Mosby's cousin was gunned down.
She said her neighbor made a "choice, that so many of us have made or will have to make if things don't change in Baltimore City."