Without funds, gun prosecutors may be fired

State's attorney seeks $700,000 from city

April 23, 2003|By Allison Klein | Allison Klein,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore state's attorney's office said yesterday that it will have to fire more than half of its gun prosecutors in June if the city or the state doesn't come up with funding to fill a hole left by an expiring grant.

"We're in a crisis state over here and I don't know if anyone is hearing us," said Margaret T. Burns, spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office. "This is a substantial loss that will impact public safety. The mayor is going to have to step up to the plate."

Though the expiring grant comes from the state, prosecutors are asking Mayor Martin O'Malley for $700,000 to fund nine assistant state's attorneys who are in danger of being let go in June.

The prosecutors are in the Firearms Investigation Violence Enforcement unit, also known as F.I.V.E. The unit, which prosecutes nonfatal shootings, has 17 assistant state's attorneys.

O'Malley's office said he is "hopeful" prosecutors will get the money from the state.

"The mayor is concerned about the situation in the state's attorney's office," said O'Malley's spokesman, Rick Abbruzzese.

Jervis Finney, criminal justice and legal adviser to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said the governor has asked him to try to resolve the shortfall.

"It's a difficult process but the governor wants us to work on it and that's what were doing," Finney said. "We'll have to see how the process works out."

The prosecutors in peril were being funded mostly through a state grant from the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, which cannot be renewed this year because of the state's fiscal problems.

To make up for the lost grant, the state's attorney's office asked for $1.7 million - $700,000 for the gun prosecutors - through state general funds. The state approved $1 million of that request.

The mayor's office said they fought successfully in Annapolis to secure that $1 million for the state's attorney's office.

"We worked hard to get them that $1 million," Abbruzzese said. "They didn't get exactly what they asked for, but nobody did this time around."

State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy has 204 prosecutors and an annual budget of $23 million, about $17 million of which comes from city coffers. The rest is from state and federal funds and grants.

Burns said Jessamy is preparing for the $700,000 shortfall and thinking about which prosecutors to let go.

"Mrs. Jessamy had to begin the process of deciding how the cuts will be made," Burns said. "We need to make sure we give them enough notice and opportunity to find alternative employment."

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