Jim Brochin, a state senator from Baltimore County, had a letter to the editor published in this newspaper last week. In it, he complained about a lack of facts in my recent column on the mob scene and brawl outside the Recher Theatre in Towson on Sept. 23.
"Had Mr. Rodricks done his homework," Brochin wrote, "he would have found out that in fact, the overwhelming majority of the crowd and the violence that ensued came from Baltimore City."
This was Brochin's response to a comment I'd made about him.
Last summer, he said his constituents "don't want to go to the city anymore" and called for the Maryland State Police to patrol downtown streets. This, of course, was after Del. Pat McDonough, another politician from the suburbs, decried "black youth mobs" and declared the Inner Harbor a "no-travel zone."
After the wreck outside the Recher, I wondered why McDonough, a Harford-Baltimore Republican, and Brochin, a Towson-area Democrat, hadn't sounded alarms about mobs in their own backyard.
After all, according to county police, some 2,500 people jammed York Road near the Recher, and police had to use pepper spray and dogs to force some of them disperse. They arrested seven people, including three men who were charged with assaulting police officers. One man was shot. Some officers were hurt.
For a few days, McDonough and Brochin had little to say about this.
And then my column ran, and Brochin wrote to The Sun to say I'd missed the important fact that "the overwhelming majority of the crowd and the violence that ensued came from Baltimore City."
Of course, you might wonder how a state senator in Towson would know this.
Was he there?
Or did the police — you know, the ones who weren't busy trying to break up the crowds or make arrests — take the names and addresses of all 2,500 people involved in this event, then report to Brochin?
Baltimore County police provided the names and addresses of five of the young men arrested in connection with the Towson melee. Two were from the city, two were from Baltimore County and one was from Hyattsville, which, last I checked, was in Prince George's County. (Two additional suspects were charged on criminal citations for disorderly conduct and failure to obey a lawful order; their names and addresses were not immediately available.)
A few days after the disturbance, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said many of those who attended the event at the Recher "were from outside the Baltimore metropolitan area."
So, given that, one wonders how Jim Brochin knew that "the overwhelming majority of the crowd and the violence that ensued came from Baltimore City"?
I asked if the senator had just made that statement up.
"No," he responded in an email. "I was briefed."
Really? By whom, Pat McDonough? (Bwahaha, just kidding!)
The senator gave me his cellphone number and suggested I call him.
In the interest of "doing my homework," there were two things I wanted to know:
Who had "briefed" the senator, convincing him that more than half of the young people involved in the Towson melee were from Baltimore? And what difference would it make? Was Brochin suggesting that the same mob that had raised havoc in downtown Baltimore on St. Patrick's Day had exported trouble to the county seat?
"I don't want you to use my name in your column," Brochin said Monday on the phone. "I'd be glad to discuss this off the record."
Off the record? As in "confidentially speaking"?
That took me by surprise.
I was asking a state senator to support and elaborate on a statement he'd already made in public — in the form of a letter to the editor. Why would he need to go off the record to do that?
Brochin wouldn't say.
When I refused to go along with the off-the-record business, the senator said he was finished with the conversation, and he wished me a nice day.
So while the senator is on the record as saying that I missed the facts, we have no proof of the claim and don't know why he would even make it.
It makes you wonder if his statement about the Inner Harbor last summer — "My constituents don't want to go down to the city anymore" — was factual, or exaggerated, or just made up.
I checked with the county police to see what they knew about the origins of the young people who had gathered in Towson that night.
"We have no information to indicate that a majority of the crowd came from Baltimore City," said Elise Armacost, the Baltimore County public safety spokeswoman.
And that was on the record.