DiBiagio withdraws from justice council

Bombshell: New U.S. attorney says city coordinating body is not an "appropriate venue" for him.

January 10, 2002

U.S. ATTORNEY Thomas M. DiBiagio is making more bizarre news.

In addition to announcing that he has found more pressing prosecutorial business than gun crimes in Baltimore City, he has now told the local Criminal Justice Coordinating Council that it is not "the appropriate venue to discuss what role federal law enforcement should play in addressing Baltimore City's violent crime problem."


"I believe that the most effective way to coordinate this effort is to engage in these discussions with ... local law enforcement officials," Mr. DiBiagio wrote in a letter.

His refusal hit yesterday's council meeting like a bombshell. After all, the previous U.S. attorney (who we thought could do more to curb gun crime) actively worked with the council.

And Mr. DiBiagio's call for more individual contact with law enforcement officials flies in the face of this fact: He has already bailed on three scheduled meetings with Mayor Martin O'Malley.

"This is so contrary to the tone and intent of Attorney General [John] Ashcroft," a stunned Mr. O'Malley suggested yesterday. "Maybe we should contact him as a council," the mayor offered in apparent desperation.

Here's a better idea: Maybe Mr. DiBiagio should reconsider his obstinate stance on this issue. His perverse refusals to dig in and help out with violent crime in Baltimore are dangerous policy, a clear detriment to other agencies' all-out efforts and, quite frankly, nonsensical.

Guns are to Baltimore what flames are to hell: They're everywhere, and the reason things are so bad. If Mr. DiBiagio thinks that isn't his problem, he's wrong. If he thinks prosecuting "bigger" crimes is the way for him to help, he's wrong. And if he thinks his success does not depend on other local authorities' cooperation and support, he's wrong.

Mr. DiBiagio is the new kid in Baltimore's crime-fighting class, but he won't lend his brain power to mastering the lesson. What an arrogant shame.

If Mr. DiBiagio has any political smarts, he'll reconsider and overcome his reservations about the council. Better still, he'll rethink his theories on gun prosecutions, too. Right now, he's rapidly gaining a reputation for orneriness that will win no friends for the Bush administration or its law enforcement efforts.

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