Claiming that Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s handling of criminal prosecutions is contributing to violent crime in the city, Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday ordered a review of funding for the office and demanded Mosby produce detailed statistics on how often her office dismisses cases or strikes deals with defendants.
The governor, who has sparred frequently with Baltimore’s Democratic leaders over policing and their responses to violent crime, claimed “now was not the time for finger-pointing” over persistent killings in the city, which has one of the nation’s highest per-capita homicide rates. But Hogan went on to suggest that Mosby’s leadership of the State’s Attorney’s Office, where she has refused to prosecute certain low-level drug and other arrests, is at least partly to blame for the violence.
The second-term Republican claimed Baltimore needs “a prosecutor who will actually prosecute violent criminals.” The Hogan-ordered review of the office’s funding won’t freeze the budget or withhold any state dollars, although the governor threatened to potentially do so in the future.
Hogan also announced he would speed up state community safety grants, a $10 million program that pays for lighting, cameras and security patrols for certain community organizations and business districts, and prodded the Baltimore Police Department to more aggressively patrol “high-crime areas” in the city at a Tuesday news conference at the State House in Annapolis.
Mosby has stopped prosecuting nonviolent offenses such as prostitution and drug possession, but her office continues to prosecute drug dealing and crimes of violence.
Mosby called an afternoon news conference where she had no shortage of words to describe the Hogan and his demands: “entitled,” “privileged,” “disgraceful,” “political theater.”
”For the past seven years, just like Donald Trump, Larry Hogan has used Baltimore City as a punching bag,” Mosby said. “He’s attacked me. He’s attacked all four mayors. He’s attacked all five police commissioners. Quite candidly, he’s been more concerned with pointing the finger at everyone else as opposed to actually leading and delivering for a city that is the heartbeat for this state.”
Mosby said her office already publishes data on its conviction rates on its website and sends the statistics directly to the governor’s Office of Crime Control & Prevention. City budget documents list the State’s Attorney’s Office as receiving about $7 million of its $48.6 million budget in fiscal year 2021 from the state, though it was not immediately clear how much of that money Hogan has authority over and could withhold.
”I’ll provide the governor anything he desires because I know how much my prosecutors do for this city,” she said.
Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said Tuesday he is more concerned with addressing issues than engaging in a public dispute with the governor.
“Our police department is always focused on those areas,” Scott said in response to Hogan’s comments.
The mayor said officials would not publicly discuss the specifics of police deployment strategies.
Scott said he wasn’t going to trade political shots with the governor through the news media. Scott, a Democrat, said the crime fight in Baltimore will require cooperation from all levels of state and city government and he spoke of his work to reconvene the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.
In 2017, Hogan cut funding to the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, saying the group of state, city and federal law enforcement leaders wasn’t devoting enough of its efforts to fight crime. Scott reconvened the council four years later; members held their first meeting last month.
“Whatever the governor decides to do is his thing,” Scott said.
Hogan has raised the issue of violent crime in Baltimore repeatedly, framing the city’s crime problems as the fault of the city’s Democratic leaders. Hogan’s remarks likely appeal to the law-and-order Republican Party base, like his “refund the police” campaign, which he’s promoted on national television shows, winning plaudits from conservative media and denouncements from the left.
As Hogan comes to the end of his term-limited stint as Maryland governor, it’s not clear what his political ambitions are. He flirted with the notion of challenging former President Donald Trump, with whom he’s sparred, for the Republican nomination in 2020, but opted against it. He has however boosted his national profile and launched a national political advocacy group, An America United.
But as Hogan possibly steps onto the national stage, his record in the state will be scrutinized.
“His handling of the state’s largest city, Baltimore, is going to come under close examination and that includes crime,” said Mileah Kromer, an associate professor of political science at Goucher College.
As part of his announcement Tuesday, Hogan also vowed to bring back two legislative proposals he’s backed in the past — a bill to stiffen penalties for illegal firearms and another to require that courts track and publish data on sentences issued by individual judges — as emergency proposals during the Maryland General Assembly’s upcoming December special session.
Democratic lawmakers have dismissed those proposals before and Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, suggested Tuesday they would again, calling Hogan’s latest moves “just performative politics.”
Ferguson said a majority of state senators have backed “targeted, thoughtful investments in communities that are most vulnerable” to crime but noted the governor had “repeatedly vetoed” those proposals. Ferguson said he hoped Hogan might work with lawmakers on “proactive solutions” that address poverty, strengthen the state’s probation and parole agency, and improve coordination between state law enforcement and local cops.
The governor said that only tough-on-crime policies could truly stem gun violence in Baltimore, an approach at odds with a more progressive agenda for criminal justice reform and “holistic” solutions to crime touted by top leaders in the city, including Mosby and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott.
“The reality is, no matter what actions we take, Baltimore City will never get control of the violence if they don’t arrest more, prosecute more and sentence more to get the most violent criminals off the streets,” Hogan said.