Baltimore prosecutor accused of leaking to Gun Trace Task Force says she had 'no clue' about investigation

For nearly a year, Baltimore’s legal community speculated about the identity of an unnamed city prosecutor said to have tipped off members of the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force to a federal investigation.

Behind the scenes, federal authorities were focused on a veteran drug prosecutor named Anna Mantegna. A wiretap picked up officers saying a female assistant state’s attorney told the leader of the squad, Sgt. Wayne Jenkins, about a federal investigation. That same day, Mantegna spoke on the phone with Jenkins for nearly 20 minutes.

Mantegna was fired in February by the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office. Now she’s fighting back, saying she never leaked sensitive information and was made a scapegoat.

“I had no clue” about a federal investigation, Mantegna said in an interview. “None whatsoever.”

She provided The Baltimore Sun with a letter from then-acting U.S. Attorney Stephen M. Schenning, marked “confidential” and sent to the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office just days before Mantegna was fired. In it, Schenning lays out information gathered by the FBI in interviews with both Jenkins and Mantegna, and concludes that there is not sufficient evidence to pursue charges against Mantegna. Schenning recommends city prosecutors speak to her about the situation.

“I have no basis to believe she knew Jenkins was corrupt,” Schenning wrote. “And, at this point, I do not see a basis to pursue federal charges against Ms. Mantegna.”

Jenkins pleaded guilty to racketeering and other charges earlier this year. He was one of eight gun task force officers convicted in the case.

The State’s Attorney’s Office has declined to comment on Mantegna’s firing.

After she was fired, Mantegna’s attorney filed notice of a potential lawsuit against State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby and her office. Mosby’s personal attorney, James M. Webster, sent a “cease and desist” letter to Mantegna, warning her not to make certain allegations included in the notice.

In the letter, Webster wrote that Mantegna was “terminated because an FBI investigation revealed you had leaked the existence of an investigation of certain members of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force to another member of the GTTF.”

Webster also provided Schenning’s letter to Mantegna to explain the firing. Mantegna provided both the cease-and-desist letter and Schenning’s letter to The Sun.

Schenning’s letter provides new insight into the Gun Trace Task Force case and what led federal prosecutors to publicly allege that a city prosecutor had leaked information to the corrupt officers.

It also reveals for the first time that Jenkins sat for “proffer” sessions with the government, where he provided information. Jenkins was not among the four convicted officers who took the stand to testify against two officers who took their charges to trial.

And, Mantegna said, the letter shows federal prosecutors had little to back up a repeated claim they made about a leak.

“I think they jumped the gun,” she said.

Federal authorities had a wiretap on Det. Momodu Gondo’s cell phone, and on Oct. 5, 2016, heard him tell another officer that Jenkins had been warned of a federal investigation by a female city prosecutor.

“The recorded conversation was alarming to the FBI because it indicated that the investigation had been compromised,” Schenning wrote. “The FBI made efforts to identify the leak.”

The FBI pulled Jenkins’ phone records, showing Mantegna and Jenkins spoke for about 18 minutes that day. At a March 2017 detention hearing for the charged officers, federal prosecutors told the court the officers should be held, in part, because there had been leaks in the investigation, including from a city prosecutor.

Investigators would not follow up with Mantegna until January 2018, just before the trial of two officers charged in the racketeering case.

They did speak with Jenkins, however. Schenning wrote that Jenkins offered to give information about the alleged leak to federal agents while he was being transported from jail on the Eastern Shore to the downtown courthouse on April 10, 2017.

Jenkins spoke to authorities at a proffer session — a meeting between prosecutors and the target of a continuing investigation, sometimes leading to reduced charges — on July 17, 2017. Jenkins told prosecutors that Mantegna had told him to “stay away from [Det. Jemell] Rayam” because the state had lost a court hearing where he was challenged on evidence, and that Rayam was being “investigated for lying and stealing.”

Jenkins told authorities that Mantegna did not say Rayam was under federal investigation. He said he inferred that it was likely a federal investigation.

Jenkins’ attorney, Steve Levin, declined to comment.

Mantegna said that on the 18-minute phone call, she shared suspicions that two of Jenkins’ detectives, Rayam and Gondo, were dirty and she told him to keep a close eye on them. She didn’t know that Jenkins himself was a target of investigators.

“Here I think I’m trying to prevent further wrongdoing — I’m telling the sergeant and direct supervisor, who I have no idea is corrupt himself — that if they’re up to no good, he’s going to be the first to see it, and he has an obligation to report it,” Mantegna said.

Rayam and Gondo have pleaded guilty in the case.

Mantegna said she and other prosecutors were aware of issues with Rayam’s credibility at the time. Prosecutors are required to notify defense attorneys of credibility problems with officers they use in their cases.

“None of us could understand why Rayam still had a badge and a gun, and I told him as much,” Mantegna said.

In his letter to the State’s Attorney’s Office, Schenning said he found it concerning that Mantegna also mentioned Gondo.

“Why is she warning Jenkins about Gondo?” Schenning wrote.

He wrote that it was a “fair inference” that Mantegna knew more — from conversations with someone whose name is redacted — and passed additional information to Jenkins.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment.

Schenning wrote that he advised Chief Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow “what we knew and how we knew it,” before Jenkins’ July 2017 proffer session. Mantegna continued to handle cases for the State’s Attorney’s Office.

On Feb. 18, after the Gun Trace Task Force trial had concluded, Schenning sent his letter to the State’s Attorney’s Office.

That weekend, Mantegna was called by human resources and asked to meet as soon as one of her drug trials had concluded. She was not asked about the allegations, and instead was given the choice of resigning or being fired. Fearing she would not be able to land another job, she chose to be fired so she could collect unemployment.

“I’ve been publicly humiliated,” she said in an interview. “I didn’t leave my house for a month, because I was so ashamed, wondering what if I ran into someone and they believed I actually did this?”

Mantegna, whose father and grandfather were city police officers for more than two decades each, said she always conducted herself with integrity.

She provided a copy of her most recent performance evaluation, which said, “As a seasoned prosecutor, Anne has strong investigative skills, a solid understanding of the law and a good relationship with law enforcement and her colleagues.”

Mantegna said that when she found out about the Gun Trace Task Force officers’ indictments, she was in “absolute shock.” She said she was friends with convicted detective Daniel Hersl for years, and never suspected he was a bad cop.

“It spits in the face of every good officer out there trying to do their job. It makes their job more dangerous and difficult,” she said. “It made my job impossible, because people have such a distrust of the system in general.

“Our city will someday, God willing, recover from this, but it will take decades just to try to get it back on course.”

jfenton@baltsun.com

twitter.com/justin_fenton

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