Mayor dis­putes Mosby over Gray case

State’s at­tor­ney acted hastily, Rawl­ings-Blake says

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Yvonne Wenger and Justin Fen­ton

Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake ac­cused State’s At­tor­ney Mar­i­lyn J. Mosby on Wednes­day of rush­ing to charge the six po­lice of­fi­cers ac­cused in the death of Fred­die Gray be­fore com­plet­ing a thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Rawl­ings-Blake said Mosby could have told the pub­lic she needed more time in the spring of 2015 to con­duct a care­ful and com­plete in­ves­ti­ga­tion, rather than im­me­di­ately an­nounc­ing charges that pro­duced no con­vic­tions.

“The po­lit­i­cal pres­sure is real when you are in big jobs, and you can’t bow to the Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake says State’s At­tor­ney Mar­i­lyn J. Mosby should have told the pub­lic she needed more time to re­view the Fred­die Gray case. po­lit­i­cal pres­sure and charge when you’re not ready,” she said.

“You have to stand up, be in the big role and say to the peo­ple ... you need time to con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate.”

Rawl­ings-Blake spoke af­ter The New York Times Mag­a­zine pub­lished a pro­file Wednes­day of Mosby and her reflections on her of­fice’s fail­ure to con­vict the six of­fi­cers in­volved in the ar­rest and death of Gray.

Gray, a 25-year-old Bal­ti­more man, died in April 2015 af­ter suf­fer­ing a se­vere spinal

cord in­jury in po­lice cus­tody. On the day of his fu­neral, the city erupted in ri­ots, loot­ing and ar­son.

Within days, Mosby an­nounced charges against the six of­fi­cers. But three were ac­quit­ted, and pros­e­cu­tors dropped all charges against the rest.

In the mag­a­zine pro­file, Mosby ac­cuses the mayor and then-Po­lice Com­mis­sioner An­thony W. Batts of putting out mis­in­for­ma­tion to the pub­lic — in­clud­ing the num­ber of stops made by the po­lice van that car­ried Gray — and set­ting ar­ti­fi­cial timeta­bles.

“First Batts said there were three stops, and we knew at that point there were four or five,” Mosby told the mag­a­zine. “So I sat down with them and said: ‘You know, we’ve got to stop putting mis­in­for­ma­tion out into the me­dia and giv­ing that to the pub­lic. It’s go­ing to be to our detri­ment.’ They didn’t lis­ten.”

As the ri­ots erupted, Mosby said, she called Rawl­ings-Blake and was “livid.”

“I had told them this was go­ing to hap­pen, be­cause they were ex­ac­er­bat­ing dis­trust,” Mosby said. She said she “screamed” at Rawl­ings-Blake: “You have sin­gle-hand­edly caused what’s hap­pen­ing in this city right now.” Mosby said she hung up on the mayor. WEAA ra­dio host Charles D. El­li­son, a veteran po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst, said Mosby’s de­ci­sion to re­veal a pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion with Rawl­ings-Blake was un­usual but not sur­pris­ing.

In an age in which the pub­lic is look­ing for au­then­tic­ity, El­li­son said, Mosby likely saw can­dor in the pub­li­ca­tion as a chance “to save this im­age she cre­ated for her­self as a tire­less com­mu­nity ac­tivist, which she is.”

“There were na­tion­wide ex­pec­ta­tions she would de­liver con­vic­tions,” El­li­son said.

Rawl­ings- Blake, who an­nounced af­ter the un­rest that she would not seek re-elec­tion, has tried to leave of­fice “on a very quiet, grace­ful note,” El­li­son said.

But Mosby’s com­ments ap­par­ently were enough to prompt her to re­spond, he said.

“Rawl­ings-Blake strikes me as the type of politi­cian who doesn’t like drama,” El­li­son said. “She was like, ‘I am not go­ing to let her get away this. She needs to ac­cept re­spon­si­bil­ity for these failed pros­e­cu­tions.’ ”

Todd Eberly, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist at St. Mary’s Col­lege, traced the back-and-forth be­tween the two women — both Democrats — to the mo­ment months ago when Rawl­ings-Blake crit­i­cized Mosby for dis­parag­ing the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

He said Mosby took the ex­change a step fur­ther by re­veal­ing their pri­vate con­ver­sa­tion.

Eberly said vi­o­lat­ing that con­fi­dence sets a bad prece­dent.

The po­lit­i­cal sys­tem suf­fers enough when mem­bers of op­po­site par­ties do not talk, he said. Of­fi­cials can’t risk a break­down in com­mu­ni­ca­tion within a party, he said.

“They need to have some de­gree of con­fi­dence that what they’re say­ing won’t go fur­ther,” Eberly said.

“What is [the mayor] sup­posed to do? You’ve got to fight back. Rawl­ings-Blake is see­ing her po­lit­i­cal ca­reer ef­fec­tively ended by this.”

The ar­gu­ment be­tween Mosby and Rawl­ings-Blake is an ex­am­ple of how the Gray cases may re­ver­ber­ate in the city for years to come.

Mosby and a group of other pros­e­cu­tors from around the coun­try are plan­ning to re­lease rec­om­men­da­tions that would give pros­e­cu­tors more in­de­pen­dence and author­ity to in­ves­ti­gate po­lice mis­con­duct, the Times mag­a­zine re­ported.

Mosby hinted this sum­mer that she planned to push for ways to re­form po­lice mis­con­duct pros­e­cu­tions.

Rawl­ings-Blake said Wednes­day that she never in­tended to talk pub­licly about her pri­vate con­ver­sa­tions with Mosby. She said of­fi­cials “need to have can­did con­ver­sa­tions even in heated times prin­ci­pal to prin­ci­pal, elected of­fi­cial to elected of­fi­cial.”

The mayor ac­cused the pros­e­cu­tor of mis­un­der­stand­ing the dif­fer­ences in their roles. She spoke of the tur­bu­lence in Char­lotte, N.C., where po­lice of­fi­cers shot a black man to death last week.

“You could see what’s go­ing in Char­lotte right now, there’s a press for trans­parency,” Rawl­ings-Blake said.

“There’s a press for in­for­ma­tion to get out as soon as pos­si­ble. That’s what I did as mayor. That was my re­spon­si­bil­ity. The ex­pec­ta­tion that I set in the com­mu­nity is the ex­pec­ta­tion that the com­mu­nity had for me.”

Rawl­ings-Blake said that “the part of the con­ver­sa­tion that [Mosby] didn’t share” was the pros­e­cu­tor’s at­tempts to have the mayor and her ad­min­is­tra­tion hold back the re­lease of in­for­ma­tion to the pub­lic.

“She told us to hold off, and don’t put it out there, don’t make it pub­lic; I couldn’t do that,” Rawl­ings-Blake said.

“So I know she was prob­a­bly up­set about it. As soon as we had that in­for­ma­tion, I Mar­i­lyn Mosby wasn’t hold­ing it, not even for a day.”

The mayor, a for­mer pub­lic de­fender, said she is not the one to blame for an in­ef­fec­tive pros­e­cu­tion.

“I can­not force her to use her best judg­ment and then de­cide how long to in­ves­ti­gate and when to bring charges,” Rawl­ings-Blake said. “She did that on her own.”

A spokes­woman for Mosby said her of­fice stands by “the de­ci­sions, le­gal the­o­ries, charges, and as­ser­tions set forth in the state­ment of prob­a­ble cause and dur­ing all pro­ceed­ings re­gard­ing the death of Fred­die Gray.”

“These charges were never po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated and have al­ways been about the pur­suit of jus­tice for an in­no­cent 25-yearold man who lost his life in the cus­tody of the po­lice,” spokes­woman Rochelle Ritchie said.

Mosby charged the of­fi­cers with vi­o­la­tions rang­ing from mis­con­duct in of­fice to sec­ond-de­gree mur­der. All pleaded not guilty.

Bal­ti­more Cir­cuit Judge Barry G. Wil­liams ac­quit­ted Lt. Brian Rice and Of­fi­cers Cae­sar Good­son Jr. and Ed­ward Nero of all charges.

Mosby then dropped the charges against Of­fi­cers Gar­rett Miller and Wil­liam Porter and Sgt. Ali­cia White.

The of­fi­cers were hon­ored at a con­ser­va­tive me­dia gala in Wash­ing­ton last week. Rice, Miller and Nero re­ceived a stand­ing ova­tion.

The of­fi­cers still face a de­part­men­tal re­view of the in­ci­dent.

KIM HAIRSTON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

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