Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake accused State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby 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 last spring 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 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 if 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 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 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 ongoing 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 “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 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,” Rawlings-Blake said.
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-year-old 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 Williams acquitted Lt. Brian Rice and Officers Caesar Goodson 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.
(c)2016 The Baltimore Sun
Visit The Baltimore Sun at www.baltimoresun.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
This content is published through a licensing agreement with Acquire Media using its NewsEdge technology.