With less than a week to go before the June 24th primary Baltimore State’s Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein – who is attempting to fend off a rugged challenge by former assistant city prosecutor Marilyn J. Mosby – has recently been touting the fact he was born in Baltimore, in contrast to his opponent who was born in Boston.
Bernstein’s strategy is dripping with irony in the eyes of one of Baltimore’s most renowned political strategists.
“Does he really think Baltimoreans are that short sighted? I think he underestimates Baltimoreans in that regard,” said University of Maryland law professor Larry S. Gibson, who is among a group of the city’s most powerful political and legal leaders backing Mosby in her pursuit to unseat the man who was once her boss.
In addition to Gibson, Mosby’s supporters include former state’s attorney and former mayor Kurt L. Schmoke (whose campaigns for both offices were orchestrated by Gibson), attorney and former judge William H. “Billy” Murphy, Jr. (who formerly supported Bernstein when he ran for state’s attorney in 2010), defense attorney A. Dwight Petit and former state’s attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, who Mosby also worked for in the state’s attorney’s office.
“She’s worked for me and she’s an intelligent hard working woman…and she can run the office,” said Jessamy who lost to Bernstein by only 1,167 votes in 2010.
“I think she’s the best person for the job. The city needs someone who connects the office to the city and I don’t think that’s happened over the course of the last four years. I don’t really know what he’s (Bernstein) doing, but I know what she’s capable of doing,” Jessamy added.
The majority of Mosby’s prominent supporters cite what they say is Bernstein’s lack of connection to the community as his most egregious failure in four years. Specifically, Bernstein ended the “community coordinator” program implemented by Jessamy, which placed individuals in all nine police districts to act as liaisons between the community and law enforcement, in favor of a “community prosecution”model.
“Getting rid of the community representatives –he (Bernstein) got rid of all 11, fired nine, two got some other positions – that was really key,” Gibson said.
“Those were the state’s attorney’s eyes, ears and voices in the neighborhood. He (Bernstein) was probably dead in the water once he did that, because what they did was they worked with victims they worked with witnesses…this was the middle connector between the office and the community,” Gibson added.
Veteran defense attorney A. Dwight Petit says the Bernstein administration has only widened the gap between the community and law enforcement.
“There’s always been mistrust in the community of the police department and I think that the state’s attorney’s office, since the election of Mr. Bernstein has only exacerbated that lack of trust,” said Petit, who represents Abdul Salaam, who was allegedly beaten while in police custody last summer, while his young son and neighbors looked on. Petit also represents the family of Tyrone West, who was killed while in police custody less than two weeks after the Salaam incident.
“There is a stonewalling in giving us information, it’s a stonewalling of cooperation it’s a stonewalling of reciprocation of evidence…All this ties into the community’s mistrust,” Petit added.
After Mosby passed the bar exam in 2006, she and her husband Baltimore City Councilman Nick Mosby –a Baltimore native – stood in front of a gutted home in Reservoir Hill, not far from a bustling open air drug market and decided to start their life together and build their family (which now includes two young daughters) in West Baltimore.
Her supporters believe her commitment to the community is the foundation of her candidacy for state’s attorney.
“She has courage; she stepped out here on her own, just her, her husband and a few friends for months,”said Gibson, who ran the campaign of Baltimore’s first Black state’s attorney Milton Allen in 1970.
“And then I and others said, ‘wait a minute, we’ve got to step up here and help.’”