O'Malley, DiBiagio have `candid discussion'

February 05, 2002|By Gail Gibson | Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

Baltimore's mayor and Maryland's new U.S. attorney, at odds over what role federal authorities should play in fighting city violence, met yesterday for the first time since the new prosecutor was sworn into office last fall.

Mayor Martin O'Malley and U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio said the private, 30-minute meeting was cordial, but that no agreement was reached on the issue that has divided them - federal prosecutions of gun crimes.

DiBiagio described the meeting, which included Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris, as a "very professional and candid discussion." O'Malley said he praised the skills and resources of the U.S. attorney's office, but also repeated his call for federal prosecutors to handle more routine gun crime prosecutions.

O'Malley has criticized DiBiagio's decision to raise the threshold for prosecuting felons caught illegally carrying firearms, a move that has resulted in fewer city gun cases being tried in federal court.

DiBiagio has said that his office will prosecute felon-in-possession crimes, except in cases where an offender has only one prior conviction. Those cases should be tried in state court, he has said, because defendants with a single prior conviction can get longer sentences under Maryland gun laws than under federal statutes.

O'Malley said he told DiBiagio that flaws in the state system, however, mean fewer gun-toting criminals are likely to go to jail without aggressive federal gun prosecutions. "I think we're almost being victimized by our own tough gun laws," he said after the meeting.

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