State approves $1.7 million to pay for city prosecutors

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Baltimore City State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy received $1.735 million yesterday from the state that she said she will use to pay for 18 gun and violence prosecutors and two homicide prosecutors.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. allotted the money for Jessamy's budget, and the Board of Public Works gave its approval at a meeting yesterday in Annapolis.

Jessamy's spokeswoman said the state's attorney's office must depend upon the state to pay for the Firearms Investigation Violence Enforcement Division because the city does not provide enough money.

"As crime has escalated, we have never seen a corresponding increase in prosecutors," said Jessamy's spokeswoman, Margaret T. Burns. She said the city has given Jessamy funding for only two new trial prosecutor positions since 1987.

A statement released yesterday by the governor said: "During the [Ehrlich] Administration, the city has never funded a gun prosecutor from local funds. All gun prosecutors are paid through this state program and subject to annual review and renewal."

Jessamy is an elected official who does not answer to the mayor, but the majority of her office's annual budget comes from city general funds. She can disburse the money in any way she chooses.

A spokesman for Mayor Martin O'Malley said the state's attorney's office has had the largest city general fund increase of any Baltimore agency since 1999 -- from $13.2 million that year to about $19 million this year.

The state grant requires that Jessamy submit quarterly reports on the work being done by the firearms and violence prosecutors.

Last year, that division had 278 nonfatal shooting, 202 felony handgun possession and 156 other weapons violations cases.

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