BALTIMORE - Marilyn J. Mosby, the prosecutor who Friday announced criminal charges against six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, took office only four months ago, elected here with the backing of community activists who viewed her as aggressive in taking on police misconduct.
At 35, Mosby - whose formal title is the Maryland state’s attorney for the city of Baltimore - is the youngest prosecutor in any major U.S. city.
Her dramatic announcement Friday seemed to stun people here and thrust her immediately into the national spotlight, not only for the hard-hitting language she used in describing the behavior of the officers but also for the way she directly addressed public anger over the death of Gray.
“To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America, I heard your call for ‘no justice, no peace,’” Mosby said. “Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man, those that are angry or hurt or have their own experience of injustice.”
As she ran for office last fall, Mosby vowed to be tougher on violent criminals and also more aggressive on police misconduct. People like Tawanda Jones, whose brother Tyrone West was killed after a violent scuffle with police, campaigned aggressively for her - in part, Jones said, to get rid of her predecessor, Gregg L. Bernstein.
“I would have been a supporter of anybody to get him out of that chair,” Jones, who has been protesting police treatment of black men here since her brother died, said an interview. “I was trying to get anybody that would take this seriously.”
She said that after watching Mosby, she became convinced that she would.
Mosby comes from a long line of police officers, but she has also made being tough on police misconduct a hallmark of her agenda as a prosecutor.
Aside from her family background in law enforcement, she has other personal ties to justice issues. When she was growing up in Boston, a 17-year-old cousin was mistaken for a drug dealer and killed outside her home by another 17-year-old.
She has been outspoken about the need to hold police officers accountable. While she was running for office, in response to a Baltimore Sun investigation into allegations of police beatings, she said: “Police brutality is completely inexcusable. I’m going to apply justice fairly, even to those who wear a badge.”
Mosby is married to Nick Mosby, a Baltimore city councilman, which drew calls from the police union for her to recuse herself. She dismissed those calls Friday at her news conference.
“I uphold the laws. He makes the laws,” she said. “And I will prosecute any case within my jurisdiction.”
Mosby comes from a long line of law enforcement officers. Her father, mother and grandfather were police officers, and her grandfather, she said, was a founding member of the first association for black police officers in Massachusetts - a point she underscored Friday in comments directed at the Baltimore force.
“To the rank-and-file officers,” she said, “please know that the accusations against these six officers are not an indictment of the entire force.”
Sonia Kumar, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, said, “Her actions really told us who she is today.”
“For years and years, victims of police violence in our city, overwhelmingly black people, have sought justice for their loved ones to no avail,” Kumar said. “This is an historic moment.”