Pros­e­cu­tor in­tends to ad­just fo­cus

Al­so­brooks notes im­pact of non­vi­o­lent crime in Prince Ge­orge’s

The Washington Post Sunday - - METRO - BY RUBEN CAS­TANEDA

An­gela Al­so­brooks heard a con­sis­tent mes­sage as she crossed Prince Ge­orge’s County dur­ing her cam­paign for the state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice: We want you to deal with vi­o­lent of­fend­ers, but what we re­ally care about are car break-ins, van­dal­ism and bur­glar­ies.

Now Al­so­brooks, who is to be sworn in to the postMon­day, says she will in­crease the of­fice’s em­pha­sis on such crimes, which af­fect thou­sands of res­i­dents for whom gangs, the drug trade and vi­o­lent crimemay seem dis­tant.

“ These are crimes that cause peo­ple to feel un­com­fort­able in their neigh­bor­hoods,” Al­so­brooks said in an in­ter­view. “We’re go­ing to fo­cus on qual­ity-of-life crimes.”

To do so, she said, she plans a re­or­ga­ni­za­tion of the of­fice, which has 70 pros­e­cu­tors and dozens of sup­port staffers.

She­p­lans to ini­ti­ate “com­mu­nity prose­cu­tions” by as­sign­ing pros­e­cu­tors to each of the county’s five po­lice dis­tricts. In ad­di­tion to their court­room du­ties, she said, these pros­e­cu­tors will reach out to res­i­dents, learn about crime trends and use so­cial ser­vices and job train­ing to help those who need it.

She in­tends to try some cases her­self— and drop in on tri­als to monitor her pros­e­cu­tors, which Cir­cuit Court Judge C. Philip Ni­chols Jr. ap­plauds. “You can’t lead from the back of the room,” he said. “You have to lead from the front.”

The job is a chal­leng­ing one. County pros­e­cu­tors typ­i­cally han­dle 9,500 new Cir­cuit Court cases — pri­mar­ily felonies, such as mur­ders, se­ri­ous as­saults, rapes and rob­beries — an­nu­ally. In ju­ve­nile court, pros­e­cu­tors take on about 2,000 new cases a year in­volv­ing of­fenses rang­ingfro­mau­totheft to se­ri­ous as­saults and, oc­ca­sion­ally, murder.

Al­so­brooks is tak­ing over at a time when law en­force­ment in the county is con­tend­ing with dam­ag­ing rev­e­la­tions and­per­cep­tions that can com­pli­cate pros­e­cu­tors’ jobs.

In Novem­ber, fed­eral agents ar­rested two county of­fi­cers in con­nec­tion with a larger fed­eral cor­rup­tion probe in Prince Ge­orge’s. For­mer county ex­ec­u­tive Jack B. John­son and his wife, Leslie, were ar­rested by the FBI as part of that in­ves­ti­ga­tion on charges of tam­per­ing with ev­i­dence and de­struc­tion of ev­i­dence. The of­fi­cers were charged with guard­ing ship­ments of un­taxed cig­a­rettes and al­co­hol. A third of­fi­cer was ar­rested on co­caine traf­fick­ing charges.

Also in Novem­ber, for­mer po­lice chief Roberto L. Hyl­ton said 46 county of­fi­cers were ei­ther sus­pended or as­signed to adal­so­brooks

min­is­tra­tive du­ties for vi­o­lat­ing po­lice rules or al­legedly com­mit­ting crimes. Those is­sues in­flu­ence some county ju­rors.

Al­so­brooks must win back the pub­lic’s con­fi­dence while hold­ing of­fi­cers ac­count­able for crim­i­nal mis­con­duct and main­tain­ing a work­ing re­la­tion­ship with the po­lice depart­ment. She is con­fi­dent she can. “ There is a need to part­ner with the po­lice depart­ment,” she said.

When it comes to po­lice mis­con­duct, Al­so­brooks said, “We just won’t tol­er­ate crim­i­nal con­duct, no mat­ter who com­mits it.

“Po­lice of­fi­cers have said to me they don’t like bad cops ei­ther,” Al­so­brooks said.

And by spend­ing more time in the com­mu­nity, Al­so­brooks said, pros­e­cu­tors can win the trust of res­i­dents who may some­day be ju­rors or wit­nesses. “ Trust is key,” she said.

Al­so­brooks was born and raised in Prince Ge­orge’s and grad­u­ated from Ben­jamin Ban­neker Aca­demic High School. She went to Duke Uni­ver­sity and the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land law school. She was an as­sis­tant pros­e­cu­tor and also ex­ec­u­tivedi­rec­to­rof thePrinceGe­orge’s Coun­tyRev­enue Author­ity.

Al­so­brooks’s pre­de­ces­sor, Glenn F. Ivey, com­piled a mixed record dur­ing his eight years on the job. He is cred­ited with in­creas­ing the of­fice’s ef­forts to fight eco­nomic crimes such as fraud andtheft, and­his pros­e­cu­tor­swon con­vic­tions against two county po­lice of­fi­cers in cases in­volv­ing the use of force, some­thing no Prince Ge­orge’s state’s at­tor­ney had been able to ac­com­plish in at least 12 years.

But there were mis­steps, too. One de­fen­dant, a high school dropout charged with first-de­gree murder, rep­re­sented him­self in court and was ac­quit­ted of all charges.

Dur­ing a 13-month span in 2006 and 2007, murder charges against 12 de­fen­dants never made it to a jury, pri­mar­ily be­cause of prob­lems with govern­ment wit­nesses.

De­fense at­tor­ney An­toini M. Jones­said­he­has­wonac­quit­tals in felony cases in which he knew the facts of the case bet­ter than the pros­e­cu­tor. In some cases, Jones said, the pros­e­cu­tor met with the in­ves­ti­gat­ing of­fi­cer for the first time on the first day of the trial.

Al­so­brooks plans to meet with her pros­e­cu­tors and sup­port staff early Tues­day to dis­trib­ute a mis­sion state­ment: Be pro­fes­sional, pre­pared, treat peo­ple with re­spect and do what­ever it takes to get the job done, even if that means com­ing in early or stay­ing late.

“I think we have ev­ery­thing we need to suc­ceed,” Al­so­brooks said. “We’ve got smart peo­ple work­ing here, and I’ve got a good re­la­tion­ship with the county ex­ec­u­tive.”

That would be Rush­ern L. Baker III (D), whowass­wornin Dec. 6. Al­so­brooks (D) will suc­ceed Ivey, whose two terms co­in­cided with those of John­son. (Ivey did not seek re­elec­tion; he en­dorsed Al­so­brooks dur­ing her cam­paign.)

“I am look­ing for­ward to work­ing col­lab­o­ra­tively [with Al­so­brooks] on ini­tia­tives that will re­duce re­cidi­vism and de­ter crime in Prince Ge­orge’s County,” Baker said.

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