Baltimore City State’s Attorney files FCC complaint in attempt to censor news station that reported on her alleged corruption

BALTIMORE, MD – Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office has filed a formal complaint with the FCC seeking an investigation of the “broadcast practices and media content” of Sinclair-owned Fox affiliate WBFF TV Baltimore, specifically its reporting about her office and herself.

Communications Director Zy Richardson wrote the complaint letter to the FCC, accusing WBFF of committing “heinous” acts. She said the content of the station’s news broadcasts about Mosby could “reasonably” be “categorized as blatantly slanted, dishonest, misleading, racist (Mosby is black), and extremely dangerous.”

Mosby’s office is claiming that the news station is intentionally reporting distorted news in violation of FCC rules and regulations.

In the letter, Richardson wrote:

“Broadcasters may not intentionally distort the news… Rigging or slanting the news is (deemed) a most heinous act against the public interest.

“I have noted that the news coverage of the WBFF persistently follows a disconcerting and dangerous pattern. Beginning with a slanted, rigged, misleading, or inflammatory headline; followed by a conspiracy theory; and supported with guest commentary from disgruntled ex-employees or political opponents that lend false credibility to their biased coverage or omission of facts.”

The letter stated that WBFF broadcast 248 stories about Mosby and her office in 2020, considerably more than the 46 by WJZ, 26 by WBAL, and 10 by WMAR.

The letter continued:

“To be clear, the State’s Attorney’s Office is not above receiving criticism. We welcome being held accountable, and we support First Amendment freedom of speech.

“However, what we find troubling, abhorrent, and outright dangerous is that the distinctly relentless slanted broadcast news campaign, against the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office and its lead prosecutor, has the stench of racism.”

The letter concluded by saying that Richardson was concerned about violence triggered by the broadcaster’s coverage:

“The truth of the matter is I am deeply concerned that if WBFF’s coverage is not curtailed and ceased, then someone is going to get hurt.

“I implore and encourage you… to enlist the full investigative and enforcement powers granted to you by the Federal government to take action against WBFF as soon as possible.”

WBFF responded to the letter in an article published on its website:

“Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who is the focus of a federal criminal investigation, the subject of a scathing report from the City Inspector General, and whose house is under an Internal Revenue Service lien for unpaid federal income tax, is attacking a media source for its reporting on her.

“FOX45 News is committed to investigating corruption in public officials, asking tough questions, and holding leaders accountable. Our award-winning investigative unit is a key part of delivering that commitment. While we understand that it may not be popular with the individuals and institutions upon which we are shining a light, we stand by our reporting.”

One of the country’s leading non-partisan organizations that focuses on the First Amendment and communications policy said it appeared Mosby’s office was trying to use government power to influence media coverage.

Richard Kaplar, President of The Media Institute said:

“These government officials are asking the FCC to investigate, and presumably sanction, a local broadcast outlet because they did not like the news coverage they received. This is a direct and unacceptable threat to the First Amendment rights of the journalists involved.”

“This matter is especially egregious because the television station holds a broadcast license issued by the FCC.  It is obvious that freedom of the press would cease to be a reality for local broadcasters if every government official who received coverage perceived as unfavorable exerted a chilling effect on local TV news coverage by calling for an FCC investigation that could (if even remotely) imperil a station’s broadcast license.”

Mosby has been in the headlines for several controversies, including being under federal investigation.  Federal prosecutors are investigating Mosby and her husband Nick Mosby, who is president of the Baltimore City Council.

A grand jury subpoena requested the couple’s business records and Marilyn Mosby’s campaign records.

The IRS also filed a $45, 000 lien against property owned by the Mosbys in October 2020 for three years of unpaid taxes.

Various other scandals and allegations have also plagued Mosby over the years.

Community leaders had strong reactions to the news of the FCC complaint being filed. Reverend Alvin Hathaway said he thought the move was dangerous:

“I think it’s a dangerous precedent when a government agency seeks to silence and shut down media.

“We think agencies need to respond to the needs of government and not to their own personal goals and aims.”

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Report: Baltimore murders have doubled – yet the State’s Attorney’s solution is to stop prosecuting certain crime?

May 6, 2021

 

BALTIMORE, MD- On March 26th, Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby held a press conference outside the courthouse in downtown Baltimore where she announced that her officer would no longer be prosecuting various “low-level” crimes.

During her announcement, she also declared that the “war on drugs” in her city was over. According to the Baltimore Sun, the data that her office provided shows that what Mosby claims is a departure from what has not been working, is really just a continuation of a sharp trend of de-policing and non-prosecution of drug laws in the city. 

When Mosby took office in January 2015, drug arrests had already decreased by 67 percent from 2011 to 2015. After she took office, those arrests fell another 52 percent by 2019. During the same time, 2011-2019, the city’s homicide rate nearly doubled from 31 per 100,000 residents to 59 per 100,000 residents.

The Sun reported that when local officials choose not to enforce certain federal and state laws, they are literally inviting a world of trouble. According to the Sun:

“By eliminating the risk of prosecution for drug possession and attempted distribution in the city, but not in the rest of Maryland (where drug arrests have remained roughly stable over the last decade), Ms. Mosby is increasing the profitability of the drug trade and inviting more of it to relocate here. Since competition for ‘turf’ and profits in this trade frequently take violent forms, this is very likely to lead to ‘high-level’ crimes and loss of life.”

As stated by the Sun, the data shows that since 2011, drug arrests have decreased, but homicides have doubled and if Mosby truly wished to end “what has not been working,” then she needs to prosecute individuals and enforce state and federal law. 

In April, Mosby gave City Council members additional information on her office’s now permanent policy to no longer prosecute minor crimes like drug possession and prostitution. She said:

“There is no public safety value and never really was any public safety value in prosecuting these low-level offenses.”

She added:

“It is wholly counterproductive to continue to prioritize low-level offenses over violent crime.”

Mosby’s new policy is facing sharp criticism from the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police (FOP). According to the Baltimore FOP, Mosby is giving drug users, sex workers, and trespassers free reign to terrorize the city. 

Kurt Nachtman, a former Baltimore city prosecutor, now a defense attorney, calls Mosby’s new policy “simply a bad idea.” He said:

“I think there’s a sentiment in Baltimore city that if you’re caught for a low-level crime you are not going to get prosecuted and so there is a certain level of brazenness that has taken hold in the city.”

Although the FOP strongly disagree withs Mosby’s policy, they made a public memo confirming that the police department would continue to align its practices with Mosby’s policies. 

Under the directive, officers can only charge someone with offenses like drug possession, prostitution, and trespassing after consulting with a superior who is a lieutenant or above.

The city will now look at lesser offenses as public health issues and will connect people with help through Baltimore Crisis Response Incorporated instead if putting them behind bars. Mosby added that the mayor’s office is now exploring how to divert 911 calls for these minor offenses to health services officials. She said:

“You call 911 and what the police department is doing is making those referrals to those agencies, calling those agencies and those agencies are actually responding to the locations and providing the services.”

Mosby has stated that as long as she is the city state’s attorney, she has no intention of going back to prosecuting low-level offenses.  

 

 

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Author: Scott A. Davis


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