Prosecutor’s lawyer and defendant’s family agree: SAO only fired Mason after DWI became public

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A Baltimore County police officer’s notes on his encounter with now-former assistant state’s attorney Andrea Mason.

Days after Baltimore City prosecutor Andrea Mason was terminated by Marilyn Mosby’s State’s Attorney’s Office, both Mason’s lawyer and the wife of a man Mason has tried multiple times for the same murder criticized Mosby’s decision.

Mason’s lawyer, Gary Bernstein, described the firing from the State’s Attorney’s Office more than a year after his client was convicted of driving while intoxicated as “an absolute disgrace.”

“It was purely reactive,” said Kelly Davis, the wife of Keith Davis Jr., who has been tried three times by Mason in the June 7, 2015, shooting death of a Pimlico security guard, Kevin Jones. “They fired her only after I made it public.”

Bernstein agrees, saying Davis’ Aug. 21 tweets, which called attention to Mason’s May 12, 2017, DWI and got reporters interested, were “one hundred percent” the reason behind the firing.

Baltimore Fishbowl first became aware of Mason’s DWI charge last month, but it was only after Davis began referencing the arrest on Twitter earlier this week that the SAO was asked for comment.

“We do not comment on personnel matters,” SAO spokesperson Melba Saunders said.

On Aug. 22, news of Mason’s firing spread and the The Sun ran a story on Mason, where Saunders commented that Mason “is a former employee and we do not comment on personnel matters.”

Kelly Davis and activists have maintained Davis Jr.’s innocence, saying the Baltimore Police Department chased and shot at the wrong man believing he had been, moments before, robbing a hack cab driver. Davis was shot three times. A trial for the robbery of the hack cab driver for which Davis was charged ended with acquittals on 15 of 16 charges.

Shortly after that trial, Davis Jr. was charged with the murder of Jones, as police connected the gun they said Davis had on him when he was shot by police to bullets found at the scene of Jones’ murder. Kelly Davis and other activists have called it a cover up—all because Davis’ shooting was the first police shooting following the death of Freddie Gray.

Davis had gone to trial three times for Jones’ murder. The first and third trial both ended with a hung jury. The middle trial resulted in a conviction that was later overturned when the defense successfully argued the state did not properly disclose the criminal history of a surprise jailhouse witness who claimed Davis confessed to the crimes while the two were in jail together.

The most recent trial, the second to end with a hung jury, included a video that showed Jones moments before his murder, which the state did not provide to the defense. The defense claims it shows a man who is not Davis following Jones and pulling a bandana over his face and provides a possible different suspect. The state, who had never mentioned the existence of the video in any of the previous trials, then claimed that the man pulling the bandana over his face was Davis.

The twists and turns of the trials have increased support for Davis Jr., who since he was first charged has attracted a sizable group pressing Mosby’s office for details, showing up at the top attorney’s public events to protest and demand she drop the charges.

After the third murder trial, the SAO claimed they were “reviewing” information to determine whether or not to prosecute Davis again for a fourth trial. There have not been any public comments since then, but at the beginning of August, Davis Jr.’s lawyer, Natalie Finegar, received a cell phone tower analysis report from the SAO, who then provided discovery to the defense on Aug. 12.

Finegar also filed a writ of habeas corpus that demanded Davis Jr. be released, citing the fact that he “is not currently serving any outstanding sentences and is not on probation for any other matters,” has four children and is suffering health problems related to the police shooting.

And so, Mason’s DWI, which occurred during the first murder trial back in May 2017, introduces more dysfunction in an already-embattled case. Bernstein said Mason informed the SAO when it happened and that she “complied with probation.”

“She did everything she was supposed to do,” he added.

The SAO provided an employee arrest/conviction policy to Baltimore Fishbowl. The policy requires that employees self-report any arrest or conviction above a traffic violation. It also allows broad discretion for the SAO to administer sanctions–from nothing to suspension without pay–but guides that misdemeanor convictions should not result in termination.

“Subject to the discretion of the State’s Attorney, there will be a presumption applied that if the offense is a misdemeanor, the employee will be allowed to continue employment,” the policy reads.

Mason was sentenced to 60 days in prison (all of which were suspended) and one year supervised probation for driving while intoxicated, which ended Aug. 22, the day she was fired. Bernstein said he doesn’t think there’s a connection between the end of her probation and her firing.

What changed, then, was Davis making this information public and with it, some of the ugly details of the arrest: Mason caused a multi-car accident in Towson on May 12, 2017; According to the police report, there was a “strong odor” of alcohol on her; her eyes were “red, glassy, bloodshot”; she was “swaying”; and she told officers, “this is why people hate the police,” and asked, “Is this all Baltimore County has time to do?”

Davis, who said she made the information public because it was an issue of accountability, expressed some sympathy for Mason: “What I do feel horrible about is this woman has dedicated her life to the SAO’s office. Instead of helping her, you throw her away.”

The Sun has since posted police body camera footage from the arrest, confirming details in the notes about the arrest viewed by a Baltimore Fishbowl reporter. Bernstein criticized The Sun, which published the first story on Mason’s firing, for releasing the bodycam footage.

The Sun is just a salacious rag,” he said. “And to put the video on is just disgraceful.”

Bernstein said he went “f—ing wild” when an editor informed him they would be publishing the video.

Davis, who has been a harsh critic of Mason and the SAO, placed the blame on Mosby’s office who acted only after the footage went public and would potentially look bad for her office.

“[Mosby] buried this or kept it hidden. As soon as somebody brought it up, she fired her,” Davis said. “It’s not about what [Mason] did, it’s that everyone found out what she did.”

Bernstein said it was unusual for a prosecutor to be fired for an offense like a DWI, and called his client’s termination a “cowardly and gutless move.” He added, “it was a vindictive move and strategic.”

Critics of Mosby identified Mason’s firing as part of a pattern of dealing with scandals only after they go public and could potentially make the office look bad. In April of this year, during Mosby’s run for reelection, her campaign adviser Quincey Gamble resigned after two 2017 charges for harassment and assault were revealed. And in February, another state prosecutor, Anna Mantegna, was fired after accusations that she had leaked information to the Gun Trace Task Force spread. It is an accusation Mantegna denies and one The Real News Network’s Baynard Woods reported was not as simple as it seemed (acting U.S. Attorney Stephen Schenning suggested Mosby hear Mantegna’s version of events first; Mantegna said Mosby just fired her).

“You either back your people or you don’t,” Bernstein said. “You don’t run because somebody you convicted’s family is upset at the prosecutor. It’s unheard of and cowardly.”

Bernstein also claimed that Mosby delegated the task of firing Mason to Deputy State’s Attorney Michael Schatzow. He said he had no plans to sue the SAO on behalf of Mason, but that how Mason’s DWI was handled casts Mosby in a much different light for him.

“I had to be talked out of texting Mosby to tell her what I thought of her,” he told Baltimore Fishbowl. “They told me she’d run and get a peace order. Sounds right, the coward she is–and you can print every f—ing word of that.”

Given that she handed over evidence, Mason was apparently ready to move forward with a fourth murder trial for Davis, currently scheduled for Nov. 5. The question now is whether Mosby will ask another prosecutor to take it on or if Mason’s firing will result in the charges being dropped.

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