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State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby fires back at Hogan, claims 90% conviction rate and accuses governor of ‘dog-whistling attacks’

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby shot back at Larry Hogan on Tuesday with an open letter accusing the Maryland governor of “incessant dog-whistling attacks about Baltimore crime” and rebutting his criticisms that she’s lenient on violent criminals in the city.

While surrounded by posters boasting 90% conviction rates, Mosby read aloud from her five-page rebuttal letter to the governor, saying she recognized his “entitlement,” “privilege” and “political posturing” last month when he threatened to withhold state funding to her office.

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“We, the people that live in the city of Baltimore, are not naive enough to believe that your attacks come from any form of sincere concern about the problems we face. Rather, your actions are purely political,” she said. “You have blamed the Mayor, the Police Commissioner, the judges, the City Council, and even the State Legislature for the crime in Baltimore City, yet many of the city’s problems can be laid at the door of the state agencies you oversee.”

Marilyn Mosby, City State's Attorney for Baltimore, held a news conference Tuesday at her office downtown to hit back at Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's criticisms of her performance as the city's top prosecutor.
Marilyn Mosby, City State's Attorney for Baltimore, held a news conference Tuesday at her office downtown to hit back at Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's criticisms of her performance as the city's top prosecutor. (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun)

Her words continue the heated back-and-forth between the Democratic state’s attorney and the Republican governor. Last month, Hogan ordered a review of state funding to Mosby’s office and demanded she tell him how often her prosecutors drop cases and cut deals with criminal defendants.

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Mike Ricci, the governor’s spokesman, offered a brief response to Mosby’s comments Tuesday.

“This is just sad at this point — for her, for the city, for the state,” he said.

Baltimore leaders continue to grapple with gun violence in the streets. The city has suffered more than 300 homicides annually for seven straight years. The persistent violence has brought criticism of Mosby, with her political opponents ranging from the governor to Democratic challengers for state’s attorney claiming she’s soft on crime — the same complaint she leveled at her predecessor in her first election campaign.

With her letter to Hogan, Mosby blamed recent violence instead on missteps by the governor’s agencies, such as the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, the Division of Parole and Probation, and the Department of Juvenile Services.

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Mosby wrote that Travon Shaw was supposed to be on state-run pretrial supervision when he allegedly shot Baltimore Police Officer Keona Holley on Thursday. Mosby wrote that Manzie Smith was “fresh off parole and not given adequate state supervision” when he allegedly attacked 69-year-old Evelyn Player in her East Baltimore church last month. And Mosby referred to failures by the Department of Juvenile Services in the case of Dawnta Harris, the West Baltimore teen sentenced to life in prison for murdering Baltimore County Police Officer Amy Caprio.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services rebutted Mosby’s claims on Shaw and Smith. Lt. Latoya Gray said Shaw was under pretrial supervision by Baltimore County — not the state. She said Smith’s state-run supervision ended one month before he allegedly committed the murder in the church.

Still, Mosby announced plans to request audits of the state agencies.

“Specifically to evaluate why these failures have occurred, continue to occur, and how we can prevent such tragedies from happening again,” she wrote the governor.

Her request coincides with another letter to Hogan from two Democratic state legislators requesting a review of the state Division of Parole & Probation.

Some 37% of victims and suspects in murders and nonfatal shootings last year in Baltimore were under the supervision of state parole and probation agents, wrote Sen. Cory McCray and Del. Tony Bridges, of Baltimore.

“We are seeing this lack of attention on parole and probation programs manifest itself in increased crime across Maryland,” they wrote in a Dec. 17 letter.

Hogan, meanwhile, has hammered on the issue of violent crime in Baltimore, blaming the city’s Democratic leaders. His oft-repeated criticism resonates with a law-and-order base in the Republican party. In answer to the “defund the police” movement, he’s urged more money for law enforcement. Hogan has repeatedly blamed Baltimore street crime on Mosby’s policies.

“She’s a big part of the problem. So we have a prosecutor in Baltimore City that refuses to prosecute violent criminals and that’s at the root of the problem,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Hogan has not yet disclosed his next political ambitions. And while Mosby has not publicly announced her bid for reelection, she has held campaign fundraisers. Two veteran Baltimore attorneys, Ivan Bates and Roya Hanna, announced that they would challenge her in the June Democratic primary election. Both have sought to make the violence in Baltimore an issue in the campaign.

In March, Mosby formalized her policy to stop prosecuting men and women for nonviolent crimes such as drug possession, prostitution, open containers and minor traffic offenses. Her office continues to prosecute people for dealing drugs, however. Her office began dismissing the other nonviolent cases a year earlier, in March 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic struck, and has since dropped more than 1,400 criminal cases and open warrants.

Mosby has defended her policy with analysis from Johns Hopkins University researchers who found violent crime did not increase; albeit, crime remains at the same persistently high level the past seven years.

The state’s attorney, meanwhile, continued to accuse the governor of political grandstanding.

“Unfortunately, we know this was not about the data,” she said Tuesday. “The governor is politically posturing for his next position.”

Along with her letter, Mosby issued statistics from her office that show conviction rates for violent crimes range from 89% to 93% annually over the past five years, with the caveat that state courts closed last year through spring of 2021 because of the pandemic.

She didn’t explain her methodology for determining those rates.

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Baltimore State's Attorney Mosby held a press conference to responds to criticism of the city and her office by Governor Hogan.

Mosby’s conviction rates — particularly how often she dismisses cases — came under scrutiny during her reelection campaign in 2018. At that time, Mosby’s office was reporting a conviction rate slightly lower than her predecessor, State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein’s, or 92% compared with his 95%.

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Her office also was dropping more cases than Bernstein’s — 38% from 2015 through 2017 compared with 27% during his final two years, the only two years for which The Baltimore Sun had access to data.

On Tuesday, Mosby reported the number of cases her office drops averaged about 25% annually in the three years before the pandemic. That figure, however, doesn’t account for all dismissed cases. An additional portion of cases ranging from 15% to 26% were dismissed those same years because the crimes were prosecuted in another jurisdiction, such as federal court or the counties, according to her office.

Mosby has said her prosecutors are forced to drop more cases than in years past because of reluctant witnesses and scandals in the police department that have undermined the credibility of officers.

Baltimore Sun reporter Pamela Wood contributed to this article.

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