Spokeswoman firing urged

Councilman seeks dismissal of official in prosecutor's office

July 16, 2008|By John Fritze | John Fritze,Sun reporter

A member of the City Council has called on State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy to fire her spokeswoman over comments she made about Zachary Sowers, a 28-year-old man who was severely beaten last year.

Councilman James B. Kraft, who represents the district where Sowers lived, said the comments by the spokeswoman, Margaret T. Burns, were outrageous and that "Ms. Burns must go."

In a May 28 article in a local legal magazine, Burns questioned whether the injuries Sowers suffered near his Patterson Park home were the result of a "vicious beating" and said he looked like a "sleeping baby" at the hospital.

After spending months in a coma, Sowers died in March.

"The failure of the state's attorney to address Ms. Burns' irresponsibility is no less than an outrage," Kraft said during an unusual speech at a City Council committee hearing. "It is without hesitation that I join in the chorus of voices and demand the immediate dismissal of Ms. Burns."

Burns sent a letter and called Sowers' wife, Anna, and has said that the comments were misrepresented in the article. Burns declined to comment about Kraft's remarks yesterday.

"I definitely think other leaders need to step up," Sowers said. Burns "needs to be held accountable for these completely inaccurate statements. She should be fired."

Kraft has sparred with Jessamy in the past. In 2006, he criticized the office's conviction rate and then stormed out of the room, abruptly ending a budget committee meeting at which Jessamy was testifying.

Zachary Sowers' attacker, Trayvon Ramos, received a 40-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to robbery and attempted first-degree murder. Three co-defendants pleaded guilty to robbery and were sentenced to eight years.

Burns was quoted in the article as saying: "The injuries were not consistent with this horrible pummeling. ... We know he was kicked, he fell and hit his head, he fell between two cars. He probably injured something in the fall or he had a pre-existing condition."

Anna Sowers, who has become a spokeswoman on the issue of crime in Baltimore, has denounced the comments. She released a letter from a Johns Hopkins doctor, Marek Mirski, who helped treat Sowers.

"His condition was highly critical and near death from severe head lacerations and intracranial trauma," the letter read. "I am saddened and appalled that our justice system is capable of such callous commentary."

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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