Marilyn Mosby is under fire. On May 17, a coalition of law-enforcement officers, attorneys and community officials formed a super PAC dedicated to ousting Mosby from her position as Baltimore City state’s attorney, according to the Baltimore Sun.
While the position is not typically the focus of a highly funded political race, the June 2018 Democratic primary is shaping up to be a heated contest. In Maryland, a super PAC can accept unlimited funds from corporations, unions and individuals, and the group has already released an attack ad against Mosby—even though she has no opponent.
Also, in May, a federal appeals court put on hold a lawsuit accusing Mosby of malicious prosecution, defamation and invasion of privacy against three of the officers who faced charges in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray, whose demise sparked riots throughout the city.
In early June, a U.S. District Court unsealed a lawsuit by two more officers in the case who charge that they were arrested illegally for the death of Gray.
Mosby’s critics allege that she was overzealous in prosecuting the police officers who faced trial on charges of killing Gray, who died after being found badly injured in the back of a police vehicle following a 2015 arrest. They accuse her of defaming their names and conducting a secret investigation. They even say that Mosby filed charges that were harsher than the crimes committed.
Go back and read the previous paragraph and replace the word “police” with any black-sounding name and notice how unremarkable that statement seems. In other words, they are angry at Mosby for treating cops with the same biased, heavy-handed one-sidedness with which police officers treat black suspects every day.
One of the reasons only five white police officers have been convicted of killing a black man in the last 13 years is that the law is technically on their side. The city, district and state’s attorneys responsible for prosecuting officers charged with crimes are the same lawyers who work hand in hand with the police on a daily basis. They depend on cops to gather evidence, investigate crimes and testify in court cases against criminals. They support the police unions. Cops and state’s attorneys work under the umbrella of the same employers and are essentially teammates, so it is naive to expect prosecutors to pursue justice against police officers with any impartial vigor.
But Mosby bucked that system wh
en she filed 28 charges, ranging from false imprisonment to second-degree murder, against six officers whose actions she believed led to Gray’s demise. Since then, she’s been a target for the people who believe that police are infallible and suggest that anyone who says otherwise in an un-American criminal.
In a question-and-answer session with The Atlantic, David Jaros, an associate professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, suggested that Mosby’s actions were consistent with how the justice system routinely treats most suspects, saying:
“I love how surprised people are by the fact that a prosecutor may have overcharged. This is something prosecutors do all the time, as a strategic choice, for various reasons, and it’s ironic that suddenly the [Fraternal Order of Police] is up in arms over this. What’s surprising is that we see a criminal-justice system moving rapidly to respond to allegations of police misconduct…
If anything, the overwhelming concern is that prosecutors and the police work together every day. There was considerable concern about whether the prosecutor in Ferguson [Mo.] was vigorously pursuing the police officer in that case and whether there were divided loyalties. In cases where the process seems to have moved more slowly, I think the question has to come up of why are those cases moving much slower than other cases that the prosecutor’s office takes on. But certainly there are reasons for us to think that we need institutions other than the police to be investigating and policing the police.”
Part of the cops’ lawsuit against Mosby is that she conducted her own investigation outside of the Baltimore Police Department instead of letting the police look into Gray’s death, which would have been as unthinkably stupid as asking Republican senators to investigate whether a Republican senator and a Republican president are guilty of colluding with … wait. That’s probably a bad example. They actually did that.
One of the grievances the super PAC leveled against Mosby is Baltimore’s rising crime rate. Yes, you heard that right—a group that includes police officers and the police union is trying to blame the crime rate on the state’s attorney. This, in spite of a Justice Department probe that shows Baltimore police officers target blacks, arrest people without probable cause and sometimes don’t even show up to court. They blame her despite the numerous studies here and here (pdf) that show conviction rates have little to no effect on crime.
Officers William Porter, Alicia White and Brian Rice are suing for malicious prosecution—the theory that Mosby went after them without probable cause for reasons other than justice. They are also suing for defamation, invasion of privacy and violations of their civil rights—a list of charges that sounds exactly like what was done to Gray when law-enforcement officials violated his civil rights, chasing him down and arresting him without probable cause.
The officers’ defamation claim mirrors what police did to Michael Brown—creating the narrative of the hulking convenience store robber minutes after Officer Darren Wilson felled him in Ferguson, Mo. The cops do not think Mosby should have secretly obtained warrants to search their cellphone records, as the Minnesota police officers did to Diamond Reynolds the day after she watched an officer kill Philando Castile in her car in Falcon Heights, Minn.
Officers Edward Nero and Garnett Miller say they “lost their freedom and dignity and suffered physical and psychological harm from being arrested and detained without cause,” and therefore they are entitled to damages, according to their recently unsealed lawsuit.
Wait … you can do that?
To be fair, being arrested and detained without cause can cause one to lose one’s freedom and dignity and suffer “psychological harm.”
On the other hand, Freddie Gray, who was arrested and detained without cause, would only wish that freedom and dignity were the only things he lost. Go ahead and ask him. I’ll wait.
It is clear that Marilyn Mosby is being attacked from all sides because Mosby treated Baltimore cops the way Baltimore cops treat everyone else—and Mosby should know. Her mother was on the police force, as were her father and her uncle next door to her childhood home.
Before the Justice Department even released its report on the Baltimore Police Department, Mosby probably knew from working with them every day that:
- Between 2010 and 2015, prosecutors and booking officers declined to book more than 11,000 arrests—usually because the arrest was unjustified or without probable cause.
- Ninety-five percent of Baltimoreans stopped more than 10 times by the police during that time period were black.
- The BPD regularly failed to investigate or respond to sexual assault.
- The department regularly used excessive force.
Maybe Mosby’s detractors will win. Perhaps a judge will somehow allow the plaintiffs to sue a prosecutor for performing her job of prosecuting. Maybe she really is a little too caught up in the “justice” part of the criminal-justice system and too willing to disregard the color of the uniforms when it comes to pursuing criminals.
In the old Looney Tunes cartoons, Bugs Bunny was always the hunted. He spent most of his time evading the devilish, gun-slinging Yosemite Sam and the bumbling, shotgun-toting Elmer Fudd. But whenever the tables turned—as they always did—instead of being repentant, Bugs’ archenemies instead would try to weasel their way out of trouble. Yosemite Sam would get so mad, puffs of smoke came out of his ears. Fudd’s stutter would become even worse in his anger.
The people coming for Marilyn Mosby have been unapologetically hunting the citizens of Baltimore since long before Mosby ever appeared on the radar. But ever since she decided that she wouldn’t give cops a free pass to do whatever they want to whomever they want with impunity, you can see the smoke coming out of the cartoon villains’ earsvears and hear them stuttering at the top of their lungs because now they know:
It ain’t no fun when the rabbit got the gun.