Thursday, March 9, 2006

Kraft vs. Jessamy vs. Rawlings vs. Clarke vs....

So what's up with the strange behavior of City Councilpeople Jim Kraft and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake? There's a budget meeting that's a total yawn (literally... that guy in the purple shirt needs to cover his mouth), then all the sudden, when Jessamy is in the middle of a sentence, Kraft bangs the gavel and declares the meeting recessed. I've seen the tape of the whole thing and you can't even tell what he was objecting to, it looked almost like he was frantic to get to the bathroom (and contrary to what the Sun says, there's no "shouting match." As Mary Pat Clarke said, "I have no idea what just happened here, other than incredible rudeness."

From what I can gather, unless Kraft had a bad hot dog for dinner, the City Council wants to audit the State's Attorney's office. The State's Attorney's office says, we'll give you any numbers you ask for, and we just gave you a bunch of numbers that you haven't even looked at. Why do you want to spend the cash money to audit us as to opposed to, say, the Police Department (BURN!)?

What's the deal with the City Council, anyway? Do they hold the purse strings of the city? I know they're elected by district, raise money and can do things like vote to pass noise and garbage ordinances, but what their actual powers and responsibilities are in relation to the Police and Prosecutors I have no clue.

UPDATE 3/13: Jessamy's office released this response:
Response to Executive Summary
Hearing on Operations of the Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office
Legislative Analysis
March 8, 2006

State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy has begun a review of the legislative analysis offered by the Committee Chairs at Wednesday's City Council hearing. She offers the following preliminary comments and will continue an exhaustive, full-review of the inaccurate data and statements offered in the report. Her analysis will be completed over the next several weeks and highlighted to the citizens of Baltimore and media.

There are several immediate and notable assessments regarding the Executive Summary that should be illuminated:

1. The State's Attorney learned AFTER the hearing Wednesday that the Budget and Public Safety Committees had initiated an independent legislative analysis report for the hearing. The report was not provided to the State's Attorney in advance, during or after the hearing. A State's Attorney staff member obtained a copy from a City Hall staff member the day after the hearing. At no time, before, during or since have the Chairs of the Committees offered the State's Attorney a copy of this report, nor was the State's Attorney aware that the Baltimore Police were asked to prepare a report.

2. The concluding recommendation in the Chair's report states that the hearing should be postponed for two weeks to allow for further analysis. This indicates that there was no intention to proceed with the hearing on Wednesday night. The courteous manner to handle this matter would have been a phone call to the State's Attorney in advance of the hearing to schedule a postponement.

3. The State's Attorney did bring to the hearing a 21-page report with accompanying statistical reports that addressed the correspondence from Councilman Kraft received 3 days earlier. At no point did Councilwoman Blake request any information regarding the budget hearing scheduled. The only requests received were from Councilman Kraft dated March 2 and March 3. The State's Attorney generated a 21-page response within 3-working {sic} days. Copies of the report were brought to the hearing and distributed.

4. A representative from the City Finance Department reported on the record at the Hearing that there had been several productive meetings and phone conversations between the city Finance department and the State's Attorney's Office relative to a caseload study. Discussions about the study were active and underway as reported by Mr. Wacks to the Chair and current discussions centered on how to best draft a Request for Proposal (RFP) that could potentially include the American Prosecutors Research Institute (APRI).

5. According to press reports, the report was prepared by City Hall and the Police Department, using police statistics, with no input from the State's Attorney's Office. It is curious that the Committee chairs asked a law enforcement agency, the Baltimore Police Department, whose data is currently under scrutiny, to assess the State's Attorney's performance. A preliminary check on this data show numerous errors in a "stealth" database that recorded conviction data – obvious errors include:

Item 1 in the “stealth” database – Deandre Whitehead is a defendant in a well-known 2004 murder case in Baltimore that involved witness intimidation of the state’s 11 yr. old witness. The database lists this case as a nol pros, and evidence of poor performance. In fact, Deandre Whitehead had a jury trial and was found not guilty. The SAME day the city jury reached a not guilty verdict State's Attorney Jessamy called the US Attorney who investigated and indicted the case for Solicitation to Commit a Crime of Violence. Whitehead pled guilty and has been sentenced to 10-years in federal prison.

6. The Committee report references per capita analysis for crime statistics and funding, which is highly irregular for crime analysis in Baltimore, particularly analysis offered by the Baltimore Police Department. This is an unusual departure, since the Baltimore Police Department rarely references trend analysis using per capita assessments of crime. If the police compare per capita trends, they would need to compare our office to efforts in Detroit, the most violent city in the nation, with Baltimore as the second most violent city in the nation. The police would also find that claims of great violent crime reductions significantly overstated when compared to drops in population.

Comparing spending per capita is not accurate unless the jurisdictions are of like size, with similar crime statistics and perform identical functions. In MD, the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office is the only jurisdiction operating a 24-hour charging center and a 24-hour war room operation. Additionally, jurisdictions such as NY do no prosecute juveniles or perform other functions performed by Baltimore prosecutors. Using a per capita analysis is a blatant attempt to deceive.

7. Until FY'2006, the only staff increases for the Baltimore City State's Attorney’s Office provided by Mayor O'Malley was {sic} funding for 3 new trial prosecutors. The record setting FY'05 and FY'06 increases noted in the report are actually the result of a January 2005 increase for salary parity and the transfer of 29 old grant positions from grants to the general fund. Some new positions (24-hour expansion of the War Room and establishing the Collateral Unit) were recommended for funding at the Mayor's request and not at the request of the State's Attorney.

8. Over the past 10-years {sic} State's Attorney Jessamy has outlined a very specific plan regarding violent crime reduction in the city, specifically linking guns, drugs and violence. Her 3-pronged approach to crime was first outlined in 1997 in a letter to Mayor Schmoke and has been periodically updated and strengthened by meetings with local, state and federal law enforcement partners as well as citizens, community partners and criminal justice agencies and the implementation of new initiatives. The State's Attorney obtained state and federal grant funding to expand homicide prosecution and create the F.I.V.E (Firearms Investigation Violence Enforcement) Division in 1997 to prosecute non-fatal shooting and weapons violations. She has adjusted the plan to a succession of 7 new police commissioners and acting commissioners under Mayor O’Malley. The most significant update occurred just recently. The State's Attorney Office was recognized as a key motivator and facilitator in the revitalized EXILE felony gun prosecution partnership between the United States Attorney's Office, the Baltimore Police Department and the State's Attorney’s Office as well as numerous federal, state and local law enforcement partners. EXILE was memorialized in a signed Memorandum of Understanding drafted by the State's Attorney's Office.

9. State's Attorney Jessamy meets regularly with the Police Commissioner and his command staff to offer suggestions to:

-Improve the quality of arrests in Baltimore,
-Train officers to improve police investigations
-Coordinate training initiatives to train detectives to testify in court"


InsiderOut said...

it sounds like someone is gearing up for a run at the State's Attorney job and has some council people starting the job of attacking the current State's Attorney

Anonymous said...

O'Malley would be happy if Jessamy was gone. Thinks she has too much power.

InsiderOut said...

I did some googling on this Kraft guy and found this letter that he wrote to the City Paper about a study they were doing on whether police training encourages quotas. Does anyone know what happened with that study? The letter says it was supposed to be released to the public last September.