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Is Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby too distracted to fulfill her duties? These statistics suggest she is | COMMENTARY

Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby holds a press conference outside the courthouse in downtown Baltimore on Friday, March 26. Critics say she's more focused on personal issues than prosecuting criminals in Baltimore.
Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby holds a press conference outside the courthouse in downtown Baltimore on Friday, March 26. Critics say she's more focused on personal issues than prosecuting criminals in Baltimore. (Ulysses Muñoz)

We are on track for another year of more than 350 homicides in Baltimore, yet city State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby seems more concerned with personal investigations and other distractions rather than with prosecuting cases.

She has publicly fought with the Baltimore City inspector general, who investigated Ms. Mosby’s extensive traveling and 140 days out of the office; and with the governor about her unsuccessful crime fighting strategies. She is currently under federal investigation and has had numerous questions raised about her personal mortgage documents, businesses, IRS tax liens and campaign finances. If all of this were not enough, there are questions about the management of her office, as it was recently raided by the Office of the State Prosecutor.

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Instead of solely working on and addressing the needs of Baltimore City and its residents, the state’s attorney and her office has focused their time and energy on filing complaints with the FCC and, as evidenced by court data, dismissing court cases. Ms. Mosby has even had time to give the finger to a citizen daring to express his opinion in her presence, and then had her office lie about it. When the state’s attorney is in town and not handling her side ventures, she appears to have been engaged in one never-ending battle after another, but the battles are often about her reputation and apparent vendettas rather than about and for the citizens of Baltimore City.

Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby makes an obscene gesture toward Sean Gearhart after Gearhart expressed support for freeing Keith Davis Jr. After a judge granted Davis a new trial, Mosby is deciding whether to try Davis again in the 2015 murder of Kevin Jones. Images taken from video shot by Sean Gearhart.
Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby makes an obscene gesture toward Sean Gearhart after Gearhart expressed support for freeing Keith Davis Jr. After a judge granted Davis a new trial, Mosby is deciding whether to try Davis again in the 2015 murder of Kevin Jones. Images taken from video shot by Sean Gearhart.

Ms. Mosby claims that crime is not her fault. I recently viewed a police body camera video in which a resident approaches a police officer asking him to intervene among some troublemakers a few streets away, but the officer replied that there was nothing he could do. He encouraged the citizen to call the State’s Attorney’s Office because, he said, even if he were to make an arrest, prosecutors would not prosecute the case. The citizen’s response was, essentially, “What are we supposed to do?” Community members have been wondering this for years in areas that have been hardest hit by crime, and their pleas have gone unaddressed.

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The Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office has seen a dramatic drop in the number of cases charged under its new crime plan, in which she does not charge low-level offenses. Ms. Mosby claimed that the goal was to end the “war on drug users.” However there was a 12% increase in overdose deaths once her policy was implemented — from 851 in 2019, to 954 in 2020. The Maryland court system’s website publishes the statistics for district court. According to my analysis, they show that in 2014, the year before Ms. Mosby took office, there were 38,384 cases charged; 5,108 of which were felonies. In 2020, there were only 16,845 cases charged; 2,625 of which were felonies. Most of the cases were dismissed: 10,539 cases, or 62%.

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Overall, there has been a 56% decrease in cases and a 49% decrease in the number of felonies charged from 2014 to 2020. Even before Ms. Mosby’s new crime plan and the onset of the pandemic, there was a significant decrease in the numbers of cases charged. In 2019, for example, there were 21,582 cases, of which just 3,545 were felonies. It is the drop in felony cases that is most disturbing. Over the past seven years, we have not had a 50% decrease in robberies, drug dealing, shootings and murders, but the State’s Attorney’s Office is only charging half of the cases that they were seven years ago. Marilyn Mosby’s prosecution strategy is to not prosecute.

Despite the decreased caseload, the State’s Attorney’s Office budget has increased dramatically year after year. In Fiscal Year 2014, the budget was $35.9 million; yet in FY2021, its budget was $48.6 million — a 35% increase from FY2014. On June 7, Ms. Mosby asked the Baltimore City Council to raise her budget yet again, and of course the City Council, led by her husband, Nick Mosby, approved the request. The budget approved by the city does not reflect the grants that she receives for campaign style billboards and pop-up parties. While the budget for prosecutors’ salaries has remained comparable, the budget for support staff has increased dramatically. The increased staff expenses do not account for the dramatic budget increase. Since city auditors cannot or will not audit the State’s Attorney’s Office, we may never know what she is spending our tax dollars on, but thus far it has evidently not been on fighting and prosecuting criminals.

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Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby's campaign to encourage people to come to court and testify.
Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby's campaign to encourage people to come to court and testify.

Ms. Mosby often touts a 93% conviction rate for felonies. Her statistic is misleading at best. The office claims that, in 2019, there were 1,111 violent crimes that were not reduced or dismissed in district court. Of those cases, 719 were convicted, either by plea or trial. These were not necessarily convictions for the most serious charge, but to any charge in the indictment. That represents a 64% conviction rate. The remaining 392 cases were not guilty, dismissed by the court or her office or given a probation before judgment ruling. Interestingly in 2015, she calculated the conviction rate using this method, but changed it when it got closer to her reelection.

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In a letter to Maryland Sen. Bill Ferguson, Ms. Mosby claimed that she does not count cases that her office dismisses because she only includes cases that prosecutors “bring into court in an attempt obtain” a conviction. The question must be asked: Why is the state’s attorney not attempting to obtain a conviction on a violent crime? The reality is that the State’s Attorney’s Office reviews cases at the time of the arrest before the case goes to district or circuit court. A decision is made at that juncture on whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute. If she was not going to try to obtain a conviction, there is no need to charge the case in the first place. I understand things happen, witnesses cannot be located, critical evidence gets suppressed by the court, etc., but let us be clear — the office tried, and failed, to obtain a conviction. A prosecutor should be honest. Baltimore can handle hard truths and deserves transparency, not someone who plays numbers games with statistics.

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Ms. Mosby has said that she cannot control the cases that are brought to her office. She is the chief law enforcement officer of the city; she sets the policy. If the police are not arresting criminals, it is up to her to work with the police department to correct the issues to make Baltimore safe. If the police are not presenting viable cases, it is up to her to tell them how to strengthen the case before it is charged.

As a candidate for Baltimore state's attorney, Marilyn Mosby said to decrease Baltimore's rising violence, she would be a prosecutor who is visible in the community and who establishes trust with potential witnesses to upend intimidation tactics. "It's the same violent repeat offenders that are driving all the havoc in our neighborhoods," she said.
As a candidate for Baltimore state's attorney, Marilyn Mosby said to decrease Baltimore's rising violence, she would be a prosecutor who is visible in the community and who establishes trust with potential witnesses to upend intimidation tactics. "It's the same violent repeat offenders that are driving all the havoc in our neighborhoods," she said. (Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun photo)

When she ran for office, she blamed her predecessor for a rise in homicides, from 196 in 2011 to 211 in 2014. Under her administration we have seen a rise from 211 homicides in 2014 to 335 in 2020, and we are on track for an even deadlier year. Each and every year that she has been in office the city has had over 300 homicides. When is she going to accept responsibility for her failure to prevent the deaths of our friends and neighbors? She needs to stop fighting with every group imaginable and fight for the city. If she is not able to fulfill the responsibilities of the position, she should find another one.

Roya Hanna is a former Baltimore assistant state’s attorney who left the office in 2015 to open a criminal defense practice. Her email is attorney@baltimorejustice.com.

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