Mosby vs. Rawlings-Blake — a Baltimore food fight

A war of words has broken out in Baltimore between Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Mosby wants to blame Rawlings-Blake for the rioting that followed Freddie Gray’s death. The mayor has ripped Mosby for rushing to judgment on the six police officers she unsuccessfully prosecuted.

Both have good cases.

The animosity between the two came to the fore after the New York Times Magazine published a mostly ridiculous piece about Mosby that made her out to be a victim. Rawlings-Blake did not feature prominently in the article, but Mosby did accuse 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. She noted that the city first said there were three stops even though it was already known that there were four or five.

Mosby claimed the distrust caused by such misstatements led to the rioting. Indeed, according to her account, when the rioting began she “screamed” at Rawlings-Blake, saying: “You have single-handedly caused what’s happening in this city right now.”

No one with an ounce of sense would attribute the Freddie Gray riots to misstatements over such matters as whether the police van carrying him made three stops or four. Rawlings-Blake’s statement that she wanted protesters to have space to destroy and her insistence that the police stand down very likely contributed to the rioting, but Mosby apparently didn’t focus on this ring of the circus.

In response to Mosby’s attack, Rawlings-Blake accused the prosecutor of rushing to charge the six police officers accused in Gray’s death before completing a thorough investigation. The mayor declared:

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. You have to stand up, be in the big role and say to the people … you need time to continue to investigate.

Rawlings-Blake’s criticism hits the mark at two levels. First, Mosby did, indeed, make her decisions to prosecute before she had fully investigated. Second, the not so subtle suggestion that the prosecutor’s job was too big for Mosby is spot on.

In fairness to Mosby, though, I don’t believe she threw the first piece of food in this spat. Earlier this year, Rawlings-Blake criticized Mosby for blasting Judge Barry Williams after her prosecutions fell apart.

At that time, Rawlings-Blake said that “as an attorney, I understand the high ethical standards that we are held to” and that “when you seek justice, it is supposed to be blind.” She continued, “I took a look at [Judge Williams’] concerns [about the prosecution], his statements in the previous cases, and he raised some very, I think, salient points about the choice to move forward with the prosecution.”

A source told the Baltimore Sun that these comments by the mayor triggered the back-and-forth, and this seems likely. But the mayor’s defense of Judge Williams was quite reasonable; Mosby’s claim that the riots occurred because the mayor gave out incorrect information, over her objection, is dopey.

For me, Rawlings-Blake comes out of this looking not like the adult, but at least like the teenager in this affair. Mosby comes away looking like an infant.

Both clearly have been set back politically. However, as I noted here, Rawlings-Blake featured prominently at the Democratic National Convention. Her prospects look brighter than Mosby’s.

But who is to say these days that reckless, injurious infantilism is a career killer in American politics?