You can’t lead if you don’t show up. Thursday, notwithstanding her Wednesday press release promising to appear at a Senate hearing to recommend expanding a no-parole law that she says would help cut violent crime, Ms. Jessamy failed to show. In other words, she failed to lead.
The Baltimore City Mayor testified. The Baltimore City Police Commissioner testified. Even the Harford County State’s Attorney, Joe Cassilly, testified that raising the penalty for those convicted felons charged with gun possession up to 15 years would serve the interests of justice. In the interest of full disclosure, even this lawyer/part-time blogger testified, arguing that the new law would actually benefit state-court defendants as well. (Those remarks can be found here). But not Ms. Jessamy—who insists on being called Ms. Jessamy, incidentally (contrast that to the Presidentially-appointed US Attorney, who humbly insists that he be called “Rod,” though “Judge Rosenstein,” would be so much better. That’s a blog entry for another day).
Now, to be fair, Ms. Jessamy and her entourage did actually drive to Annapolis. (State’s Attorney Cassilly came all by himself.) And, like the Mayor and Commissioner Bealefeld, she waited while the Senate took testimony on other proposed legislation. But then, after the Mayor testified and the Senate Judiciary Committee took a break to hear testimony related to a different matter, Ms. Jessamy left in a huff. Or maybe it was a minute and a huff. In any event, her reasons for leaving but not leading were open to interpretation.
Did Ms. Jessamy leave because she had more pressing matters? That would seem rather odd, given the number of press conferences she has held and press releases she has issued in support of the Mayor’s proposed bill. Besides, if the impetus for her early departure was based solely on a scheduling conflict, she could have certainly asked one of her capable deputies to remain behind to testify.
Or, did Ms. Jessamy leave because the Mayor offended her during the Mayor’s testimony? That conclusion would seem unlikely since the Mayor praised the State’s Attorney personally for her hard work and partnership with the Mayor’s office. But the Mayor also thanked the US Attorney’s Office and praised that office for its federal prosecutions of gun crimes. That praise seemed to rankle Ms. Jessamy, whose spokesperson, Marty Burns, suggested to some in the committee room (which was overheard by others in the committee room) that the State’s Attorney’s Office should have shared in that praise.
Such a comment is not only petty, it’s flat-out wrong. The point of the legislation is to make the State’s Attorney’s Office more effective in prosecuting gun crimes. That is, to give state-court defendants an incentive to plead guilty (currently, the sentence is the same for a defendant whether he pleads guilty or is convicted at trial), rather than demand a trial. The lack of such an incentive serves only to clog an already-overburdened state court system or forces federal prosecutors to step in and adopt the case. Had she praised the successes of the State’s Attorney’s Office, the Mayor would have been saying in effect that there is no need for the passage of this bill.
But it would seem that Ms. Jessamy is all about Ms. Jessamy. That’s too bad, because it really should have been about the bill.