The candidates for Prince George’s County state’s attorney agree that front line prosecutors are overworked and under-paid, and all hope to build on incumbent Angela D. Alsobrooks’ legacy, but they differ on who is best positioned to lead the office for the next four years. Aisha N. Braveboy Former state Del. Aisha N. Braveboy is touting her tenure as pro bono legal counsel for The Community Public Awareness Council, a non-profit that works to divert young first-time offenders from the criminal justice system. The head of government affairs for the Children’s National Health System, Braveboy ran unsuccessfully for Maryland attorney general in 2014. She is currently on leave from her job. Victor R. Ramirez State Sen. Victor R. Ramirez, a 16-year Annapolis veteran who works as a criminal defense attorney, says his experience as a litigator puts him head and shoulders above the competition. He believes that people with substance abuse and mental health problems who are accused of wrongdoing should be dealt with outside the court system, so prosecutors and police can focus on more serious crimes. D. Michael Lyles D. Michael Lyles, head of the Prince George’s County Human Relations Commission and a task force on human trafficking, said his experience as manager of a large organization and his reflexive opposition to “bureaucracy” give him the edge.
Alsobrooks, who is finishing her second term, is running for county executive. No Republicans filed for the office, so the winner of the June 26 Democratic primary is all but certain to become state’s attorney in December.
Braveboy has racked up the lion’s share of endorsements, winning support from the police union, the county’s correctional officers, former state’s attorney and judge Alexander Williams and a slew of other labor organizations, among others. She has raised more than $162,000.
Ramirez has the backing of former state’s attorney Glenn F. Ivey, Progressive Maryland, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and the Service Employees International Union. Ramirez has raised $156,000 and has loaned his campaign another $58,000. Lyles, a former member of the Bowie City Council, said that as a relative newcomer, he’s not well positioned to play the endorsement game, though he did win the backing of former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D). “I’m a person who actually gets things done,” he said. He has raised $78,000.
The state’s attorney’s office in Prince George’s has long struggled to retain front-line prosecutors, and all the candidates are promising to boost pay and reduce attorney caseload. Turnover in the office, they all say, is unsustainably high.
And all have focused on the need for a stronger focus on rehabilitation.
Where they differ is on who brings the most relevant experience.
“I’m the only one who’s done criminal trial work,” Ramirez said. “I’ve done over 500 cases myself. My vision is to address the injustice in our criminal justice system.”
He said his rivals’ lack of courtroom experience is “embarrassing” and “insulting” to voters. “I wouldn’t go to an eye doctor if I needed brain surgery,” he said. “The last person who had no courtroom experience was Jack Johnson; we saw how that worked out.”
Johnson, a former Prince George’s state’s attorney and a two-term county executive, served more than five years in prison following a 2011 guilty plea on federal corruption and bribery charges. Braveboy rejects the criticism from Ramirez, pointing to her work with young people accused of crime. “I have already worked with the partners in the public safety community,” she said. “I have the respect of all of the individuals who make our criminal justice system work, and I’ve shown that I can develop programs that reduce criminal activity.” Lyles calls himself “the most experienced candidate to come along, probably ever, for state’s attorney. As a lawyer, as a legal practitioner, someone who has managed lawyers, managed people, managed projects and programs in and out of government, [I have] produced great results.” He accused Ramirez of “trading in falsehoods.” “He doesn’t know my experience. He’s never sat down and talked to me. I can try any case and I would [run] circles around anybody. I don’t care what the subject matter is,” Lyles said. “It’s applying the law to the facts. I’ve been very successful in that.”
Lyles cast doubt on whether Ramirez would be able to prosecute former clients. “We have to question whether someone who has committed themselves to defending folks charged with crimes, whether the commitment is going to be there to do what’s right,” Lyles said. Braveboy, who fought mandatory minimum sentences while head of the Legislative Black Caucus, faulted Ramirez for voting in favor of legislation establishing mandatory minimum sentences in committee, only to reverse himself on the floor because of the upcoming election. In an interview, Ramirez said he’s against them. “Each case should be considered on its merits,” he said. “When you start taking discretion away from a judge, it leads to inequality.” In a nod to how overwhelming dominant the Democratic Party is in Prince George’s County elections, all three candidates said they are “extremely progressive” or “the most progressive” candidate in the field. [email protected]