Baltimore County State’s Attorney Candidate Robbie Leonard – Baltimore Sun
Baltimore County State’s Attorney
Towson, Baltimore County
Senior Counsel at Leonard & McCliggott Law Group
University of Baltimore Law School, JD; University of Towson, B.S.
Secretary of the Democratic Party of Maryland; Member of the Democratic National Committee; Former Chairman of the Baltimore County Democratic Party
What is the most pressing issue facing the County State’s Attorney’s Office?
There is a lack of accountability. Baltimore County set a 2021 homicide record that eclipsed that last record set in 2019, showing an increase before and after the pandemic. The office does not use the ready and available services of the Baltimore County Dispute Resolution Center to help defuse and resolve disputes. The office does not advocate reducing the sale of drugs on the black market or reducing the amount of guns on the streets. Yet no one is holding the bureau responsible for the increase in murders. There is no accountability for their failures in prosecuting sexual assault cases. When a Public Information Act request asked for statistics on how many sexual assault cases they have dismissed or prosecuted, they declined to collect or release the data. How can we improve the justice system when no one is tracking the results?
When they have to hold the police accountable, how should prosecutors investigate and possibly bring charges against an agency with which the bureau works closely?
I supported a law that made the Attorney General‘s office primarily responsible for independently investigating deaths involving the police. I will be supporting a bill in the next legislative session to give the AG’s office the ability to prosecute these cases. The flaw in the law is that it only involves murder. We must go further. A Dundalk teenager lies in a hospital bed as I take this quiz after being shot multiple times by police. I hope he makes it, but why should an independent investigation wait until we know his prognosis which may take weeks or months? Since 2013, at least 28 people have been shot dead by police. It is the taxpayers who have been held accountable, because we are the ones paying the millions of dollars in settlements. Each of these killings has been deemed “justified” by the current state’s attorney.
What’s behind the Baltimore County crime and how can the State’s Attorney’s Office help address these root causes?
Holder has repeatedly stated that every drug-related murder is marijuana-related. If that’s true, the simple solution is to legalize cannabis. Removing marijuana from the black market will virtually eliminate unsafe terms from their street sales. A recent poll showed that a majority of Democrats, independents and Republicans support legalization. It’s common sense. Domestic violence is also a major reason for the increase in homicides in Baltimore County. The prosecution must do more to intervene. This doesn’t just mean aggressively pursuing every partner assault, but it means proactively offering services to battered spouses and partners. This means proactively planning therapy and counseling when needed. In situations of non-domestic violence, we need to engage in restorative practices to resolve conflicts before they escalate. We don’t use all the tools at our disposal.
Should certain crimes be prioritized and, if so, which ones? (Ex: minor drug offenses versus violent crimes with victims, etc.)
Absolutely. We must prioritize violent crime. Lesser crimes should be diverted from the criminal justice system to allow the state attorney’s office to process cases with real victims. One of the defendants accused of killing Baltimore City Police Officer Keona Holley had been waiting two years for a Baltimore County trial date on charges unrelated to Officer Holley’s murder. We must bring swift justice and real consequences for violent crimes. I refuse to let the state’s attorney’s office and police witnesses get bogged down in petty cases if it means delaying violent crime prosecutions.
Has Maryland gone too far, or far enough, on police reform?
Maryland didn’t go too far. Police reform is common sense. We are talking about officers required to undergo bias training and de-escalation training. We’re talking about officers trained in how to respond to mental health crises. We’re talking about outlawing chokeholds that lead to the execution of citizens before they stand trial. We’re talking about banning the hiring of an officer who was fired for excessive force in another county. We’re talking about requiring the use of body-worn cameras for the sake of transparency and bringing the truth to light. None of these measures go too far. Every profession should strive to be at its best. We must accept nothing less for our police.
Where do you see room for improvement in how victims of sexual assault are treated by law enforcement and prosecutors?
The current state’s attorney and his former head of the sexual assault unit are currently charged in a federal lawsuit brought by a rape victim. The state’s attorney did not believe the woman’s story, so he sent armed police to her home to threaten her to press charges herself through a court commissioner. That civil trial is scheduled for later this year. Unfortunately, we don’t know how many women have been treated this way by the Holder, but many have contacted me to tell me their stories. According to FBI data from 2009 to 2014, Baltimore County police classified 34 percent of rape allegations as unsubstantiated, meaning they did not believe the women a rape had occurred. This is almost the highest percentage of unfounded cases in the country. The reason for this is that the police know that the state’s attorney will dismiss the cases. We must do better.
What is the role of a prosecutor in seeking justice for people who may have been wrongfully convicted or received a sentence that should be reconsidered due to changing circumstances?
Baltimore City and Prince George’s County are the only two state attorney offices in the state with a conviction integrity or conviction review unit. I promise to be the third. I testified in the last legislative session on House Bill 958 which would have created a prosecutor-initiated re-sentencing process. Proposed legislation would have given state attorneys a clear legal mechanism to ask the court to change a defendant’s sentence — after a thorough and methodical review of the case and the sentence — to ensure fairness. and justice in sentencing. Justice does not stop when a prosecution obtains a conviction. Justice is also done when we learn if a conviction was obtained by mistake or bad intention, which makes it just.