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Call for Marilyn Mosby to take a leave of absence is misguided

Why the rush to judgment? Why does this paper’s Editorial Advisory Board (“Mosby should take a leave of absence,” Feb. 28, 2002) call on Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to take a leave of absence rather than wait two months for a federal jury’s upcoming verdict? What’s the compelling evidence to support a divided board’s drastic conclusion that all but ensures Mosby’s defeat in the June primary?

Let’s be clear. From the moment shortly after Mosby took office in 2015 and decided to charge six Baltimore city officers with the death of Freddie Gray, opponents, led by the police union, orchestrated a relentless campaign to remove her from office that continues to this day. Though the board editorial sugar-coated its call by referring to a proposed paid leave, let’s be clear: Resigning from office amounts to Mosby forfeiting the office voters twice elected her to serve in during these past eight years.

After all, why would any undecided voter choose a candidate who implicitly admits to being unable to lead and carry out the state attorney’s responsibilities at this critical moment?

The editorial reminds us initially that every accused person is presumed innocent but then goes on to create an exception for officials like Mosby who “hold a powerful position in city government.” Indeed, one could reach a completely contrary position for an elected official, one that requires the Editorial Advisory Board to respect voters’ will and which defers judgment until a jury’s upcoming verdict.

Of course, criminal charges against Mosby or any elected official might warrant a leave of absence where factual data revealed the indictment interfered with her sworn duty to prosecute crime.

Hence, the advisory board sought to justify its recommendation on three grounds. First, it argued that an indicted Mosby would be unlikely to collaborate with federal prosecution of gun cases. Yet, the board failed to present a shred of evidence showing a breach in cooperation, either now or at any time in the recent past. On the other hand, Mosby charged federal prosecutors with “personal, political and even racial animus” in bringing charges. Why not wait and evaluate the trial evidence?

Second, the board’s editorial referred to an anonymous “Baltimore criminal defense lawyer” who reportedly claimed that since the January 2022 indictment, the state attorney’s office is “hemorrhaging prosecutors.” Without identifying the lawyer, readers cannot evaluate the person’s credibility, personal interest or animus toward Mosby.

Nor did the board’s editorial offer any details showing experienced prosecutors suddenly leaving the office these past two months. Readers are left wondering how a board majority can be persuaded to call for an elected official’s withdrawal from office.

Third, the editorial raised the “irony” of Mosby’s establishing a “no call list” of police officers who lack credibility as witnesses because of a prior conviction or criminal charge with her resisting leaving office because of a purported loss in public integrity as an accused person. However, Mosby’s disqualification of an officer from testifying cannot compare to the advisory board urging removal of that duly elected official from office. Baltimore voters will decide whether Mosby remains the city’s State’s Attorney.

The board’s 10-5 vote fell three members short of tabling the resolution. The board should reconsider and affirm its belief in a vibrant presumption of innocence. So, too, should The Daily Record insist upon a more detailed and evidence-based approach in maintaining editorial integrity upon such a critically important matter.

Doug Colbert is a law professor at the Francis King Carey School of Law at the University of Maryland.