By Stephen Janis
Special to the AFRO

A proposal from Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to beef up law enforcement in the city is coming under scrutiny

Concerns are being raised after the governor announced a plan to add roughly a dozen prosecutors to the Maryland Attorney General’s office next year to bolster crime fighting efforts in Baltimore last week. 

The proposal is part of a plan to spend additional money on law enforcement in the city.  Hogan said the new prosecutors would be funded as part of his 2020 budget plan presented during the upcoming legislative session in Annapolis next year.

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, seen here during a recent press conference with Baltimore Police
Commissioner Michael Harrison (to Mosby’s left), said a proposed crime initiative by Gov. Larry Hogan was, “problematic.”

But the idea has prompted pushback over worries that adding prosecutors to the crime fighting mix from a state agency could lead to conflict with local authorities. 

“It is something we are going to have work out, because it’s problematic, to have two local prosecutor’s office essentially prosecuting the same types of crimes,” Mosby said last week during a press conference. 

“With regard to the way to our policies are implemented, that may differ too.”

Her views were echoed across the city.  Fourth district council candidate Logan Endow said Hogan’s proposal could compromise the authority of a duly elected city official.

“It does seem like another instance of the state taking control,” Endow told the AFRO.  

“The state already has an inordinate amount of control in the city,” Logan added.

Logan said the rising crime rate would be better addressed with more investment in social services and violence prevention programs. But he also said the justice system was hamstrung by endemic corruption, a problem Hogan’s plan did not address. 

“Juries don’t trust the police,” he said.

Indeed, in the last month alone Mosby has announced a series of indictments that raises even more questions about the integrity of the city’s law enforcement agencies.

Recently Mosby’ conviction integrity unit secured the release of three men who spent 36 years in prison for a crime they didn’t commit, Alfred Chestnut, Ransom Watkins and Andrew Stewart.

The trio had been charged and convicted of the murder of then 14-year-old DeWitt Duckett.  Duckett was shot inside Harlem Park Middle school in 1983 by an assailant who demanded his Georgetown basketball jacket. 

But an investigation by Mosby in conjunction with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence project revealed fatal flaws in the case, including the coaching of juvenile witnesses and the failure to disclose exculpatory evidence. 

Separately Mosby’s office indicted 25 corrections officers working in a special tactical unit for allegedly running a criminal gang inside several jails located in Baltimore.  The charges included assault of inmates and efforts to cover-up mistreatment of prisoners which lead prosecutors to conclude the unit was a veritable gang.  

Finally, just last week Mosby’s office indicted Baltimore Police Sergeant Ethan Newberg on 32 counts of false imprisonment and assault. The charges allege Newburg initiated false arrests on nine separate occasions during a six-month period starting in 2019.   The allegations emerged after city prosecutors reviewed six months of Newberg’s body camera footage. 

The Maryland Attorney General’s office say the additional prosecutors will collaborate with Mosby’s office, pointing to a proven track record of productive partnerships in the past. 

“We have worked together multiple times collaboratively on cases without any problems.  We look forward to continuing that relationship,” Raquel Coombs, spokeswoman for Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh told the AFRO

Currently the AG has eight prosecutors focused on crime in Baltimore. 

But when asked if the AG would honor Mosby’s policy not to prosecute marijuana possession cases, Guillory did not respond.   Last year Mosby pledged to drop any pot arrests, citing the disproportionate impact of marijuana enforcement on the city’s African-American community. 

The lack of clarity on policy was also cited by Mosby as a lingering issue. One of the main reasons she did not mince words on her opinion of the plan’s future prospects.

“Hopefully it will be removed from the governor’s budget at some point.”