When I began working on this column my plan was to talk about a recent interview Gregg Bernstein – the man charging hard to upset current Baltimore State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy in the Primary Election on Sept. 14 – sat down for at the AFRO.
Then, I got a look at Bernstein’s first television ad, and it is nothing short of brutal.
The commercial begins with a still photo of a 2002 memorial service for the martyred Dawson family. All Baltimoreans should remember the tragic and heinous events, which culminated with the murder by firebombing of five children and their parents.
The commercial also contains the requisite background dirge, as well as a devastating commentary by an alleged former Jessamy employee, a woman named Di Tanya Madden.
“We lost five children and their parents because the state’s attorney’s office mismanaged the program,” Madden asserts. She is identified in the 30 second video as a former witness protection coordinator for the state’s attorney’s office.
Madden goes on to repeat Bernstein’s mantra of Baltimore having the highest crime rate and lowest conviction rate before she offers her searing (and somewhat condescending) indictment of her former boss. “And Patricia Jessamy just isn’t getting the job done,” she said. “She’s an intelligent woman, she’s sweet, she has a good heart, but Baltimore City doesn’t need sweet, Baltimore City needs strong.”
And as if the point hadn’t already been made with the force of a mixed martial arts shot to the solar plexus, the producers of the Bernstein ad go for one more sucker punch at the end.
“It’s a tragedy in Baltimore City that people are getting away with murder because Patricia Jessamy fails to convict them,” Madden laments.
For anybody who had any doubts that this race for Baltimore state’s attorney was going to get incredibly ugly, in the words of Peter Gabrielle, “Let there be no doubt about it.”
The rhetoric between Jessamy and Bernstein has only heightened since “sign gate” – the controversy over Baltimore Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld posting a vote for Bernstein sign on the lawn of his Southwest Baltimore home.
The state’s attorney and her opponent have participated in several debates over the last couple of weeks and each one seems to get testier.
Jessamy continues to argue FBI statistics since the beginning of her tenure as state’s attorney in 1995 indicate crime is down across the board in the city.
It seems like a fairly compelling argument. Simply put, Jessamy and her supporters assert you can’t blame her for stuff that goes wrong in the prosecutor’s office and not give her significant credit for the decrease in crime, overall, and the homicide rate, specifically.
But, Bernstein’s accession to Jessamy’s role in the decrease is begrudging at best.
“Yes, incidents of crime have gone down,” Bernstein conceded during a recent interview before offering a meandering caveat. “But, you know criminologists have studied for years the reason why crime goes down and goes up. And if you’re just going to rely on incidents of crime, you know, are you now going to lay at her doorstep the spike in crime over the last two weeks? Are you going to say that it’s her fault?…And she would say, ‘That’s not fair,’” Bernstein said.
“The other thing I would say is remember, the data she is relying on is in part already determined to be unreliable and that’s the rape data,” he added. “I really find it incredible…because she herself knows that you’ve got all these unfounded rapes and yet she’s putting that data up to say that because of the drop in the incidents in crime she should get credit for it.”
Ultimately, of all the numbers being tossed around about incidents of crime and conviction rates, perhaps the most telling numbers are $217,870 for Bernstein in the bank versus $46,004 for the Jessamy campaign, an almost 5-1 edge.
With this kind of dollar advantage it seems clear Bernstein will trot out more ads like the Dawson family video, which portends more bad blood between now and Sept. 14.