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Campaign Beat

Sacrificial Lamb

Tom Chalkley

By Van Smith | Posted 8/30/2006

"I filed on July 3 at 8:30 p.m.," Democrat Stephan Fogleman says of his last-minute primary bid to unseat Baltimore City State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy. "I was expecting, and hoping, for someone else to run against her." Sitting in his tiny campaign office on the second floor of a lower Charles Village office building, munching on a Subway sub, Fogleman is the portrait of a harried, outgunned political candidate. "It didn't happen. I decided that this state's attorney just simply could not get a free pass. As a citizen of this city, I felt it was my duty--it was someone's duty--to run."

Fogleman, 37, has just returned from a press conference in front of the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse downtown, where he'd been peppered with questions from reporters about his demand that Jessamy "return the dirty money" her campaign received from strip clubs, liquor stores, defense attorneys, and other lawyers who, he says, bring "frivolous lawsuits against the police department." In his previous swipes, he's called Jessamy a "DINO"--a Democrat in name only--because she hasn't endorsed the Democrat in the governor's race, Mayor Martin O'Malley, and since her relationship with O'Malley's opponent, Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, has been chummy. And he's complained about Jessamy's use of her taxpayer-funded office staff to do campaign work.

Fogleman's most fundamental complaint, though, is that he says Jessamy is so preoccupied with fighting others in the law-enforcement community that she has lost focus on what should be her top priority: putting away criminals. "Crime fighting, not infighting" is one of his campaign catch phrases.

The sniping has gotten Fogleman some press, but he's still far from being a household name in Baltimore, where he moved four years ago from the suburbs. This is Jessamy's third campaign since her 1995 appointment, and she has name recognition, though many news-following Baltimoreans may connect it with failed prosecutions and a feisty, contrarian attitude toward other criminal-justice leaders.

In the 2002 Democratic primary, 56 percent of the electorate voted against Jessamy, instead favoring either then-City Councilwoman Lisa Stancil or longtime local lawyer Anton Keating. Still, Fogleman, with $2,300 in his campaign kitty compared to Jessamy's nearly $60,000, as of the Aug. 15 filings, has his work cut out for him.

"I am not the most high-powered lawyer in this town, by any means," Fogleman points out. "I'm not the most qualified attorney in this town to be state's attorney, and I'm sure not the most well-known attorney in this town. But none of them are running for the job. I do believe that I'm more qualified than my opponent, given the fact that I've been trying cases for a dozen years when she's not been trying cases for a dozen years. So we hope that the state's attorney at least manages the office effectively. But I don't believe she's even doing that."

Jessamy, in a phone interview, expresses bemusement over her opponent's attempt to knock her off her crime-fighting perch. "You have to deal with what you got," she says of Fogleman's candidacy. "He's an interesting guy." Asked what makes him so, Jessamy immediately points to something Fogleman has not been advertising: "I find it interesting that he's complaining about me, and yet he apparently supports legalizing marijuana. That's fine, if that's what he wants to do, but as a prosecutor it is sort of conflicting."

"I'm thrilled that she has brought this up," Fogleman responds, after acknowledging that he has served on the legal committee of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML) for about five years, which gets him client referrals on pot cases. He names two other Baltimore lawyers--Michael Kaminkow and Joshua Treem--who are on the NORML committee, and adds that their firm has financially supported Jessamy's re-election. (Campaign records reflect that their firm has given $714 to Jessamy's committee since 2002.) Kaminkow also sits with Jessamy on the Baltimore City Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, an advisory board that is meant to get the justice community on the same page, policy-wise, although the group is primarily known for the contentiousness of its meetings.

"Yes, I'm of the opinion that we need a sensible drug policy," Fogleman says of his NORML work. "But I'm not running for the legislature--I'm running to uphold all the laws, to take an oath to do so. My personal opinions are irrelevant to the purpose of being state's attorney. But I think some of her supporters"--and he points out former mayor Kurt Schmoke, in particular, who in 1988 famously opened a national dialogue on liberalizing drug laws--"would appreciate that I have an open mind on this issue. And I certainly hope she is not trying to do to me what the media did to Kurt Schmoke, who did not say he wanted to legalize drugs, but that it should not be taboo to discuss the issue."

Jessamy's office has not been immune from the taint of pot connections. Although Fogleman didn't mention it, one of her drug prosecutors resigned in 1997 after a small amount of marijuana was seized from him as he tried to enter Canada on a personal trip.

Since legalizing pot is not part of Fogleman's platform, he's happy Jessamy introduced the issue. "It tells me that I'm getting traction," he says. "If my opponent has such a big problem with NORML, is she going to ask her good buddy Ehrlich to return the campaign donations?" The Sun recently reported that Ehrlich's campaign received $500 from NORML in recognition of his advocacy of medical marijuana.

Jessamy, having snitched on Fogleman, concentrates on defending her record. The idea that she's fighting cops, not criminals, leaves her aghast. "I'm not fighting anybody," she insists. "But I am fighting for a lot of things." Topping that list is using her communications office to make sure her office's work "is not being misrepresented." She contends that the bad press she has gotten for low conviction rates--Jessamy says it is 67 percent for felonies, while the police department claims it is 46 percent for violent crime--is unwarranted, and that cases that have been lost due to prosecutors' failure to share evidence with the defense, as required, have "never really and truly been an issue."

As for the fractured relationship among Baltimore's law-enforcement leadership, Jessamy says, "I don't know if it can be mended. The mayor is running the Baltimore Police Department, and as long as that is happening, then I think we are going to have problems." She says she has a good relationship with the rank and file. "The majority of them," she asserts, "are very pleased with what we do."

Fogleman's allegation that Jessamy is using taxpayer-funded resources to conduct her re-election campaign, which is evidenced primarily by her communications office handling election-related questions from the press, is unfounded, she says. "No one can ever say that I'm using my office to campaign," she states flatly. At the same time, she admits that "no, I don't" separate campaign communications from that of her public office, as, for instance, O'Malley does in defending and promoting his record as mayor on the campaign trail. She says that "there is no way in the world that you can always separate that."

Jessamy gets philosophical when asked if there is anything else she wants to add. "I'm just doing the best job I can," she says. "I'm not perfect, but I'm a hard worker. You wonder why people go into politics at all, but I'm here. Everybody questions my motives, but I don't have a hidden agenda. I'm just serving the citizens of Baltimore. If the voters of the city elect Mr. Fogleman, they deserve what they get. But I don't think they will."

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