After he campaigned on a slogan of “Fight Crime First,” many expected that Baltimore’s new chief prosecutor, Gregg Bernstein would pursue a repeat offender who had slipped through the fingers of the previous regime. The Baltimore Sun says that to the surprise of critics who worried that he would be too cozy with the police who endorsed him, Bernstein chose to try three city officers charged with kidnapping and misconduct after picking up two teens and dropping them off far from home.
Bernstein made no secret that he took the case in part to prove skeptics wrong. “I do think it is important for the public to know that as state’s attorney, I take these cases very seriously,” he said outside the courthouse after a jury found two of the officers guilty of misconduct but acquitted them on the more serious charges of kidnapping. For a prosecutor who had accused his predecessor of too often battling police, some saw Bernstein’s prosecution of the officers as a betrayal and a failure. Defense attorney Kenneth Ravenell said after the verdict that Bernstein had wasted his time. “Look at what he ended up with — a misdemeanor” conviction, he said, vowing to appeal. The police union that enthusiastically endorsed him as a crusader for justice felt let down. “Choosing this case to go forward with first seemed more political than his mandate of fighting crime first. I would’ve looked elsewhere,” said Robert Cherry, president of the police union, which backed Bernstein over longtime incumbent Patricia Jessamy.