City's top prosecutor addresses crime increase

Challenger says Bernstein is "out of touch"

On Tuesday Baltimore City's top prosecutor took his turn addressing rising crime and violence in the city.

Gregg Bernstein held a news conference at the corner of Ensor and East Preston Streets in East Baltimore, where a murder happened in 2007.

Melvin Jordan was shot and killed, after leaving a bar down the street.  Bernstein said last week, a jury found the suspect in the case, Phillip Herrell guilty in the case.  Prosecutors plan to ask for life in prison.

Bernstein said that case and other recent convictions highlight his office's focus on repeat, violent offenders.

But still -- in 2013 Baltimore City's murder rate is sharply higher than last year.

"We don't look at numbers and say ‘Oh we're doing better, we're doing worse.'  Any time someone is killed, to us it means we need to do a better job of making sure it doesn't happen again," Bernstein said.

He declined to comment on the investigation into the death of Tyrone West, which happened earlier this month as West was being arrested in Northeast Baltimore.  But Bernstein asked for the community to continue supporting police and prosecutors.

"We need the public's assistance in all cases.  The more cooperation from the community, the more successful we'll be," he said.

Marilyn Mosby has announced that she is running to try and unseat Bernstein.  She said the West case is indicative of a lack of trust between the prosecutor and the public..

"Trying to break down the barriers of distrust in this city, they're not doing that.  The current state's attorney since he's been in office, he's exacerbated the distrust," she said.

During his news conference the state's attorney was also asked about Capone Chase.  He is now in custody, charged with killing Ramon Rodriguez on a playground in Greektown earlier this month

That crime earned Chase the label "Public Enemy Number One" from Baltimore City Police.  But the murder happened just three days after Chase walked out of prison, after making a plea deal with prosecutors in another case he'd been facing.

"We looked at that very carefully and the result was a function of the evidence that we had available to us and the difficulty we had with the witnesses and so that was what we felt was the best result that we could have obtained under the circumstances I described," Bernstein said.

Police say Capone Chase was a known member of the Black Guerilla Family street gang; Mosby says the case shows Bernstein's office has lost its focus on repeat violent offenders.

"The rise in violence has everything to do with his priorities being off and him being completely out of touch with what's going on," she said.  "BGF is the top priority.  They have been, repeatedly, the individuals who have been responsible for the spike in crime."

Chase is not the only BGF member cited by Mosby, who worked as a prosecutor under former State's Attorney Pat Jessamy.

She said the scandal at the Baltimore City Detention Center could have been minimized if the so-called ringleader, Tavon White, hadn't spent so much time there.

"He was there for four years because the state's attorney's office, twice, failed to get a conviction against this guy," Mosby said.

Prominent Downtown defense attorney Russell Neverdon has also said he's getting into the race for Baltimore City State's Attorney.

The Democratic primary election, which typically determines the winner in Baltimore City -- will be held on June 24th of next year.

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