See It (with Katie Curran O'Malley) | Crooked Media
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April 19, 2022
Pod Save The People
See It (with Katie Curran O'Malley)

In This Episode

DeRay, Kaya, and De’Ara cover the underreported news of the week— including anti-lynching legislation, a sharp increase in depression amongst American teens, and a police chief indicted for illegal gun dealing. DeRay interviews Katie Curran O’Malley about her candidacy for Maryland Attorney General.

 

News

DeRay https://fox59.com/indiana-news/former-ohio-police-chief-indiana-gun-dealers-plead-guilty-in-conspiracy-to-illegally-sell-machine-guns/

Kaya https://www.theatlantic.com/newsletters/archive/2022/04/american-teens-sadness-depression-anxiety/629524/

De’Ara https://www.nbcnews.com/news/nbcblk/ida-b-wells-pushed-7-presidents-pass-anti-lynching-legislation-now-s-f-rcna23596

 

 

Transcript

 

DeRay Mckesson: Hey, this is DeRay, and welcome to Pod Save the People. In this episode, it’s me De’Ara, Myles, and Kaya talking about the news that you didn’t hear in the past week, the news that was underreported but important to people’s lives around race, justice, and equity. Then I sat down with Katie Curren O’Malley, a 2022 candidate to be the next attorney general of the state of Maryland. We chat about her experience as a former District Court judge, her unique campaign that addressed issues like gun violence, criminal justice reform, reproductive rights. This is my first substantive conversation with former Judge O’Malley, most people in Baltimore at least know her name in some way, and it was good to actually hear from her. It was good to also think through who might be the next attorney general of the state of Maryland. Let’s go. My shout out for this week is for Everything Everywhere All at Once. It’s a new movie that’s out. I saw it late last night. And I loved it! It’s like weird and quirky, but has a really, really good message. I don’t want to give it away. And, you know, maybe we’ll figure out how to have somebody on the pod from the show, but loved it. Loved it. I can’t wait for the other people in the pod to see it so that maybe we can talk about it on during the news, But Everything Everywhere All at Once—totally weird, totally. Sort of like magical in its own way, and beautiful message in the end. That’s my advice for this week is if you see a movie, go see that. And if you see it, really do, I mean, none of my friends have seen it, really so I need somebody to talk about it with. So if you see it, please send me a message because I want to talk about it.

 

De’Ara Balenger: My news today is from NBC News. It is about the late, great Ida B. Wells. And the particular context is around the anti-lynching bill that Ida B. Wells pushed many presidents—seven, in fact—to pass. And we know now, and grateful for, quite frankly, that the legislation that she helped to push finally, finally was signed by President Joe Biden last month after 200 attempts to pass it in Congress, 124 years since Ida B. Wells visited the White House, advocating for it. Now we do have the Emmett Till Anti-Lynching Act in law. It’s a federal hate crime, the new law carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison for anyone who conspires to commit an act of lynching. And it’s defined as the act of public killing of an individual without due process. So, you know, it’s an American paradox, the fact that we have to have a law against something, a crime, a hate crime, as violent and heinous as this, but here we are. Also, you know, telling that it took so long to get this law passed. But really, what this article focuses on is Ida B. Wells and her dedication, her commitment, and her lifelong journey to see that this law was passed. And coincidentally, I’m rereading “The Crusade for Justice”, which is Ida B. Wells’ is autobiography which y’all should heck out because it’s absolutely brilliant, and so, actually so compelling and so, so applicable to current day. But this article talks about in March 1898, how Ida B. Wells, who’s a journalist, was the sole woman among eight congressmen who made the visit to the White House advocating to push the anti-lynching legislation. At that time, she was going there to implore President William McKinley to punish the killers of Frazier Baker, South Carolina’s new postmaster. He was the first Black person to hold that position, and his daughter, Julia. They, they’d both been shot to death by members of a white mob. Now, McKinley ordered that the Justice Department do a formal investigation into Frazier’s killing, but a year later, an all-white male jury remained deadlocked on the verdict, and the judge declared a mistrial. That same year, Wells-Barnett unsuccessfully lobbied Congress to pass a national anti-lynching law, and at that point it was introduced by Illinois Congressman William Lorimer. So her efforts did not stop at Congress, nor President McKinley. She petitioned several different presidential administrations, all calling for this federal anti-lynching law. Now, really, how this crusade got started for Ida B. Wells is that in March of 1892, in Memphis, three Black men were lynched and one of them, Thomas Moss, was was a friend of hers. And so Thomas Moss, along with his business partner Henry Stewart and Calvin McDowell, were killed by a white angry mob because of the success of their grocery store. And this incident really marked a turning point for Wells-Barnett. And, you know, I think her autobiography says what was really most compelling to her about all this was the narrative at the time that the white owned newspapers were telling was that these folks, you know, these businessmen were a menace to society. And, you know, she knew they were not guilty of any crime and it propelled her to really think about how many other false narratives were being reported about people who were actually, you know, killed and no justice was ever, was ever gotten for these folks who lost their, whose lives were taken. These murders, along with others, motivated Wells-Barnett to investigate lynchings across the south. She published in her books to show how white press justified lynchings and reported unreliable accounts of what had occurred. She gathered statistics on lynching and highlighted individual cases to expose false accusations and a lack of evidence that often undergirded them. So just was kind of a fascinating take for Ida B. Wells. In her advocacy, she understood that numbers and statistics had power, and also that narrative had power and so her work and her journey really was to uncover the truth and the true narratives and then to, and to write about them and to memorialize them. And that’s what she used to kind of help her in her advocacy. We know now because of incredible organizations like the Equal Justice Initiative, that there were actually 4,300 Black people lynched throughout the U.S. between 1870 and 1950. Countless others, of course, countless others lived in fear of the threat of lynching enforced by vigilantes, especially across the southern states. But the work of EJI, of Equal Justice Initiative, really, the underpinnings of it really began with Ida B. Wells’ work, right? And also just kind of thinking about the personal danger she put herself and her family through in having to investigate these murders—these lynchings, rather. So all that to say, you know, I know that we talked about this legislation on the pod, but I just wanted to really bring it, kind of bring it back around for y’all to pay attention to that it finally has passed, but also to pay homage to Ida B. Wells, who was such a key part of getting this legislation passed, even though it’s, you know, a century later from really when she was advocating for it. So, you know, check this article out in NBC News. If you can, you should read Crusade for Justice, which is the autobiography of Ida B. Wells. You won’t regret it.

 

Kaya Henderson: There’s an interesting article in the Atlantic monthly that attempts to explain America’s teenage mental health crisis. Now maybe you didn’t know or maybe you did, but a new study by the CDC chronicles the highest level of teenage sadness ever recorded, with 44% of American high school students saying they feel persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. What a number, 44% of American high school students saying they feel persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. This is true, particularly with certain groups. So more than one in four girls and nearly half of LGBTQ teens reported seriously contemplating suicide during the pandemic, and sadness among white teens is rising faster than for other groups. But since 2009, sadness and hopelessness have actually increased for every single race, straight and gay teens, in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.. Overall, the picture is pretty bleak amongst all kids. The author takes some pains to say what it’s not. So it’s not, you know, teens behaving badly and teens being moody, because over the last little while, drinking and driving among teens are down 50%, school fights are down 50%, sex before 13 is down 70%, school bullying is down, LGBTQ acceptance is up. He also says it’s not driven by the pandemic, that actually, over the last decade, things like eating disorders and teens, self-harming behaviors in teens, teen suicides, and emergency room visits for teen mental health emergencies have all risen sharply over the last decade. So what is causing American teen sadness? Well, they assert four things. The first is social media use—you could have guessed that one. He makes a very interesting point about social media not being this sort of like rat poison but like toxic to everybody, but that social media use is like alcohol: “It’s a mildly addictive substance that can enhance social situations, but it can also lead to dependency and depression among some users.” This makes total sense to me, right? There are people who drink and are fine drinking and whatnot, and then there are people who, you know, for whom drinking is a real problem. And I think that’s the case with teens and social media use. For a lot of our young people at very formative stages of adolescence when they are developing self-awareness and conceptualizing who they are in the world, they are also taking this, you know what could be a drug to them with social media use. The second thing causing American teen sadness is that sociality is down, or social isolation is up. Now, this is also related to social media use because social media displaces beneficial activities like going out with friends, like going to get your driver’s license, or playing sports, or getting a summer job—these social interactions, opportunities for social interactions, for young people are like fuel, and when kids aren’t interacting with one another, they experience loneliness, sadness, and depression. So this social isolation, in part at the hands of social media, is one of the things causing teens sadness. Another is that the world is just stressful, and we have more news about the stressful things happening in our world. These young people today are worried about gun violence, climate change, the political environment, finances, viral pandemics—and all of this leads to adult stress, but it also leads to teen stress. It leads to depression. It leads to anxiety. And let’s add to the fact that teens are hearing about these things all the time. The way the news cycle works, or the way to media works is we portray these things with a sense of doom, end-of-the-world kind of perspectives, in part because our media, our media philosophy, is built on the idea that bad news sells, right? And so kids are hearing a steady diet of doom and gloom, Oh my gosh, the world is going to end, which also contributes to their sadness. Finally, one of the additional things causing American teen sadness is modern parenting strategies—my friends, yes! The author talks about anxious parents who want to insulate their kids from all risk and danger, and they are unintentionally transferring that anxiety to their kids. Our kids are growing up slower, they have less independence, they are less tolerant of discomfort, they have a lower sense of personal competence—and this is in part because of much more accommodating parenting styles. If you know, if you don’t like vegetables, we see parents who will feed you everything but vegetables to accommodate that dislike instead of getting you to try different kinds of vegetables or try new ways to eating, try new ways to eat vegetables. And so we see the accommodating parenting style, you’ve heard people talk about helicopter parents and, you know, all of this kind of thing. You’ve heard the things about, you know, participation trophies and things like that. But we are literally not preparing our young people for discomfort or pressure or or any of the risk and danger that they’re going to face out in the world. And so it’s an interesting article. I’m worried about our young people. You know, just watching the news, the doom and gloom news, it’s easy to see that American teenagers are sad and lonely and depressed, and I, for one, am, I’m interested in what we can do—and notice I didn’t say what schools can do. I feel we place so many burdens on schools. Anything that is happening with kids, we want schools to fix it. This is an opportunity for the broader village to raise our children differently. It’s calling on parents to think differently about their parenting styles and give their kids more opportunity for risk and independence. It’s causing, it’s causing us to think about social media differently. It’s causing us to think differently about how our kids spend their time, their free time, not just on screens, but make sure that they’re out playing in youth sports leagues or that they’re doing things with their friends. And, you know, as we have reopened through this pandemic, giving our young people the tools that they need to stave off sadness and depression and hopelessness and loneliness is going to be important. The author reminds us that this is not just pandemic behavior or a reaction to the pandemic, these indicators have been on our radar screen for a while, and now’s the time for us to take it seriously and do something to support our young people.

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.

 

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DeRay Mckesson: My news is about a police chief in a small town in Indianapolis. In Addyston, Ohio, Chief Dorian LaCourse was recently indicted by the federal government and he pled guilty in a conspiracy to illegally sell machine guns. Now the town of Addyston is in southwest Ohio, it’s about a thousand residents, and he’s actually the only full-time police officer. But what he was doing is that he was exploiting a law enforcement exception to the federal ban on the possession or transfer of fully-automatic machine guns. And he was essentially saying that they needed, that his department needed machine guns and he was helping two firearms dealers acquire and sell about 200 fully-automatic machine guns using false documents. Now, I bring this up, now the ATF did an investigation and they did this whole thing because the police officer was filing statements with the federal government saying that he needed these guns and that they were paid for by the police department, but really, it was two other guys who were paying for the purchases, and they were bypassing the restrictions on importing these weapons by anybody but the police or the military. And I bring this up because, you know, people often ask, how did these weapons get into neighborhoods? You know, we’ll see a mass shooting in a community and people are like, Where did the guns come from? How did they even get to neighborhoods? And, you know, we would say that the police were doing this. People would be like, You’re being dramatic, you just don’t like the police. And it’s like, No, not being dramatic! The police are legitimately a part of how guns get into neighborhoods, and this is just one of the most glaring examples. And he got caught. But two hundred machine guns were imported into Indianapolis and sold into communities, bypassing a loophole on the ban for machine guns. And I just wanted to bring this up because these are the stories that like, you know, this is in a small town newspaper online, Fox 59. I’ve not seen this in a national media outlet, certainly not on MSNBC or CNN. But these are the things that we have to talk about when we think about gun control, that gun control cannot just be heavy penalties for gun users. The question becomes How do the guns, how do machine guns even make it into communities in the first place? And that’s why I wanted to bring this up here. I also, this made me think, and we don’t, I have not been a part of an advocacy campaign about this, but it made me think about how many other cases like this are happening across the country? How many other, there was an entire gun trace task force that was indicted and convicted for stealing from people, stealing guns, selling drugs. You know, when we talk about these things, people make it seem fanciful. And for all the mess that happened in Baltimore, the gun trace task force, it did not lead to any substantive changes in the police department. There was a, there was a state level review board that got put together. But really, very little change. There wasn’t even like a city level commission to make it better. And they did all that thievery while the federal government was under consent decree with them, while the federal government had them under a consent decree. But I just bring this to the forefront because it was something that surprised me. I hadn’t seen it written about anywhere, except for a very small town newspaper. But to this question of how do guns get into neighborhoods, I’m never surprised. I’m never confused by it. It’s one of those things that is like nobody in the hood is building guns in their backyard. That’s not what’s happening. So I want to bring this to the pod and bring it to you.

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Don’t go anywhere. More Pod Save the People is coming.

 

[ad break]

 

DeRay Mckesson, narrating: Now you all know that I’m from Baltimore and deeply invested in the well-being in the state of Maryland. We follow political races around the country and some are seemingly more important than others. But this one is with Katie Curren O’Malley, who is running to be the next attorney general for the state of Maryland. The current Attorney General, Brian Frosh, who’s a great guy. He is, he’s decided to not run again. This will be a big year for Maryland. We’ll have a new governor, a new attorney general. And Maryland is already progressive, but we can do more and excited to see who takes these next two big offices. Now, Katie Curran O’Malley has had a long career in the legal field, most recently as a district court judge. We’re going to talk about how she experienced those roles, what she learned, why she’s running to be the next AG. And then we talk about a set of things in her platform that I haven’t really heard a lot of other people talk about. We talk about what the AG can do around domestic violence, we talk about some environmental stuff, and we talk about Baltimore. So here we go. Hope that you learn from having this conversation, and even if you’re not from Maryland, we should be pressing all the people running for offices who have a huge impact on people’s lives. Let’s go.

 

DeRay Mckesson: Judge O’Malley, that’s how I that’s how I first knew you, as District Court Judge Katie O’Malley. Thanks so much for joining us today on Pod Save the People.

 

Katie Curran O’Malley: That’s my pleasure, thanks for having me.

 

DeRay Mckesson: Before we talk about your run to be the next attorney general of the State of Maryland, can you just tell us like how you got to the law? Like what was your, did you grow up knowing you always wanted to be a lawyer? Your father obviously was in elected office before, but sometimes that drives people away from being in roles like this. Like, what was your journey to law?

 

Katie Curran O’Malley: Well, I did grow up in a household where my father was a lawyer and a legislator for the entire time since I’d been born, and he’s been a public servant. And that certainly made me interested in going to law school after college. And so I took about a couple of years off and went to law school at night. I worked in the day at the state’s attorney’s office in Baltimore County and my, one of my first courses that I took in law school was criminal law, and I was immediately drawn to it just because of the humanity of it and the cases that we studied and the great things that could be achieved through a just criminal justice, you know, program throughout our nation. Learning about the Constitution and Fourth Amendment issues, Fifth Amendment, Sixth Amendment—all of it just came to me very, very engaging. And then of course, I, you know, worked in the state’s attorney’s office with lawyers, and I watched them in trials, day in and day out, after we finished our legal work, they always encouraged us to come watch them in court. And I was just fascinated with the whole courtroom experience. And so from sort of year one in law school, I knew I wanted to be a criminal law attorney and in the state’s attorney’s office. I tried to get a job in the public defender’s office, but they had too many people who were applying for it at the time and so the state’s attorney’s office in Baltimore County had a vacancy with a contractual position, and they said, Well, you know, we’ll see how it works out, we might not get funding for this. But it ended up being perfect. And you know, I worked with public defenders throughout my career as a prosecutor and really became, you know, we worked together. It sounds odd, but you know, we were all friends. We would do our work, our cases, we would talk about our evidence, because as you know, you can’t have anything—there’s no secrets really in discovery, you have to disclose your case. So I always found it just to be really nourishing way to learn about the law and help people. And so that’s, that’s why I chose this career path.

 

DeRay Mckesson: You know, people, all the images that we see of judges on TV are not great, right? Like, you’re the people putting people in jail, you’re the people, in some ways, I think some people would say holding people accountable, but most of the images we see are not, you know, sending people to community service, it’s sending people to jail and sending people to a lot of other things that some people would say is not necessarily rehabilitation. Can you help us understand your time as a judge? Like what was that like for you? How would you respond to critiques of the judgeship? Like what does that, how do you make sense of that period of your life and your career?

 

Katie Curran O’Malley: Right? Well, you know, judges are all different. We’re all very, very different and beginning as a, you know, as an assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore County, I appeared before some fabulous judges that were fair and we’re just and really were thoughtful about what they were doing in in their sentencing or in their rulings of evidence. And then there were some judges that I appeared before that I can’t say that about. So my time as a judge, I wanted to emulate the great judges that I was able to work with when I was a prosecutor working, you know, appear in front of whether they were a judge trial or a jury trial. And you know, one of the things I realized is that judges do have so much power over people’s lives, whether you are in the Court of Appeals or on the District Court, and with that immense power, you have to be cognizant of all of the different issues that are going on in a case, whether you’re talking about civil law or criminal laws, but in the criminal justice system, it’s even more important. So, you know, in Baltimore City, I was able to sit on our drug treatment court for a period of three years, which was a really rewarding experience. Te men and women that came in to the court system, through the drug treatment court program were people that I could really empathize with and understand because they wanted help and they wanted to, they wanted to make their lives better. And we were able to do great things, hooking up with an intense probation period where they were getting structure. And when I saw intense, not as like a hurdle, but where they had somebody checking in on them all the time, making sure they weren’t relapsing, making sure they were getting through their treatment program, getting them bus passes so they could have the transportation to do it. Because it’s one thing to want to get the drug treatment that you need. It’s another, sometimes another thing to get through the barriers of getting to treatment. And making sure we had treatment on demand was a huge part of what we were doing in Baltimore City. And I have to say, most of the jurisdictions around the state, the big ones have followed the model that was started in Baltimore City by Judge Houston back in the early 1990s. We also did a lot of work in the diversion area with homelessness because sometimes people who are homeless would get caught up in petty crimes, whether it was a theft or trespassing or, you know, really minor infractions. And so with the diversion court, we were able to get those cases processed early, and especially with prostitution charges, if they were being trafficked, the social worker who worked in that court was able to identify and sometimes build a trust with the man or woman who was being trafficked and get them the services that they need so they could get freedom from their oppressor. So it was a really rewarding experience. They called it “Early Resolution Court” and it was a net for basically getting people who were having issues, whether it was mental health, drug addiction issues, caught up in a human trafficking situation, getting them out of the criminal justice system, getting them services that they needed and basically dismissing their cases. And now, since the Legislature for the past few years has been passing really, really progressive laws that allow us to expunge so many of those types of crimes, if they do get probation before judgment and or they got a guilty finding for a prostitution charge back in the ’90s, all of those things can be expunged and people then have don’t more barriers to being employed. So Baltimore city was a great place for the diversionary courts, and I really enjoyed working there for the past 20 years and helping people, really, with their lives and getting them, moving them forward to a more productive lives for themselves and their families.

 

DeRay Mckesson: Why, attorney general? You could do a lot of other things. You’ve had a long career in public service. Why this role? Why now?

 

Katie Curran O’Malley: Well, why now? It’s actually timing. You know, Attorney General Frosh decided that he was not going to seek reelection. I’ve been a judge for 20 years and I’ve been working with both sides with civil law and criminal laws, and the AG’s office does such an immense job when it comes to helping Marylanders, whether it’s consumer protection, criminal justice reform, public safety or when we’re talking about the environment, and I believe that with all the years of experience I’ve had as an advocate and as also an arbiter of all these laws that I’m the best person suited to run the office, and I just care very passionately about that office. I’ve known the attorney generals that have served there have all been trial lawyers, who’ve all been in courtrooms and been advocates for people and clients throughout their career before becoming attorney general. And that’s what we really need.

 

DeRay Mckesson: And what would you say, like let’s zoom all the way out, is that, you know, we see the attorney generals in the news, mostly around the Trump stuff I would say. Like, you know, attorney generals in some states have done things and haven’t—but I think a lot of people don’t pay attention to attorney generals because, you know, they don’t really impact your day-to-day life. How would you describe the—or maybe they do—how would you describe the role of the attorney general? Like, why does it matter to Joe Schmo or to somebody who is not deeply involved in politics?

 

Katie Curran O’Malley: The attorney general and the hundreds of attorney generals that work in the office, along with the support staff, have a direct effect on people’s day-in and day-out lives. We’re all consumers. And even, you know, we’re all citizens of this great state. We need our environment to be protected, our water to be safe to drink, our land to be free of forever chemicals, and attorney generals are the ones that go to court and enforce these laws that are already on the books. We need fair labor practices, you know, so many workers now, even before the pandemic, have been victims to wage theft, and the Attorney General’s Office enforces wage theft laws. And it’s also very important when we’re talking about consumer protection that you have an attorney general that is going to go after bad actors that are preying on people. I mean, we’ve had a terrible situation in Baltimore with about 95 plaintiffs that were ripped off from their settlements that they had received, from their structured settlement payments, which they’ve gotten from lead paint poisoning. And we had three individuals form this business called Access Funding reached out to these young men and women right when their, when their settlements were becoming due and purchasing the settlements from them for a penny of what they were supposed to be. Because these settlements were designed to allow for these individuals who were impaired because of lead paint poisoning to live a decent life and have a decent income up until hopefully into their 60s. And when these actors, they’re from Montgomery County, the business called Access Funding came into Baltimore, they advertised. I don’t know if you remember seeing these big billboards, but they advertised saying “Get money for your settlement and call this number.” And it was outrageous because they definitely didn’t have a fair bargaining power. And when they went in to talk to this Access Funding company, they pretended that they provided a lawyer to tell them what was in their best interest when it was really somebody that worked for them. And Attorney General Frosh really went after them, not only civilly, but then was able to prosecute them—or have indictments of the three of them related to the Access Funding case. And those indictments went down in December of 2021. So these are the type of things that the Attorney General’s Office does, it’s protecting all of our citizens, vulnerable, non-vulnerable, protecting our seniors in nursing homes from financial and physical exploitation, you know, consumer protection laws. The Consumer Protection Act has been in effect since, I think, in the early 1970s, and it’s expanded greatly to help people get resources to find out if they are in fact been victims of a scam or fraud scheme. And you know, when I left the State’s Attorney’s Office, I was head of our white collar crime economic fraud unit, and a lot of the victims of those types of cases were our senior citizens and our older Americans, and so the AG’s office plays a huge role and looking out and enforcing laws that are targeting seniors in these different scams. It also plays a huge role in public safety. Not only has the Attorney General’s Office always handled all of the criminal appeals and civil appeals from the Circuit Court through the Court of Special Appeals and the Court of Appeals, but they also play a role, as you know, in the organized crime division that was created in 2015 by Attorney General Frosh. And there’s about 10 attorneys that work in that unit with local law enforcement and federal law enforcement to target gang violence, as well as organized criminal activity when it relates to human trafficking, drug trafficking, and our biggest problem right now is gun violence. So the AG’s office has so many lawyers that do this great work that it’s essential that you have an attorney general who has been in the courtroom and done this type of work as a prosecutor and then as a judge, balancing both sides and making sure people receive justice when they come to the court.

 

DeRay Mckesson: Most of the conversation right now is around progressive DAs and like city states attorneys. What’s the relationship between the A.G. and a district attorney or a city state’s attorney?

 

Katie Curran O’Malley: Well, it should be as a partner and it should be collaborative. And with this organized crime division, the assistant attorney general, 10 of them that are there, do work collaboratively with other states’ attorneys across, you know, the Baltimore metropolitan region and actually all across the state. But a lot of the crimes that they’ve been working on in a multi-jurisdictional way involve, say, you know, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County and you know, criminals don’t necessarily understand when one line, you know, when the jurisdictional line enters and they’re driving through an area and now they’re in a different jurisdiction, but we know when you’re law enforcement that if there’s a crime is committed in one place, the state attorney’s office handles it in that jurisdiction. But if it continues to another jurisdiction, then things get murky. And with some of the cases that have been presented in the attorney general’s office through the organized crime division, they’ve had, you know, a criminal organization set up, say, in Anne Arundel county but it intersects with Baltimore City and in a way such as the distribution of fentanyl—that was a huge case that was going in and out of city-county lines—and having this ability to work with the different assistant states’ attorneys and attorneys, states’ attorneys in these jurisdictions has been really a great way of working together to solve these types of crimes rather than, you know, making it murky and difficult with different jurisdictional issues and which police officer can and can’t do this, that or the other thing because of the jurisdiction that they’re in. So I think the relationship should be good. I know Attorney General Frost, who had a really good relationship with Mayor Scott, and he has also done work with the state’s attorney in Howard County, Rich Gibson, Anne Arundel states’ attorney, Anne Colt Leitess. So making sure you foster those relationships and not looking to act as though you’re patronizing these different jurisdictions, but that you want to be a partner and work with them so we can all solve these issues to make our community safer.

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom. I have to ask, because most people also know you’re—most of the people of Maryland, especially Baltimore—know your husband. And some people feel strongly about his record as mayor, thinking that it was a time where the strategy was to lock people up. Some people feel like he was a much more progressive governor. But how do, you how do you, I don’t know, how do you respond to people worried that you might push the state back to a time where it was a much more carceral approach to dealing with crime?

 

Katie Curran O’Malley: Well, when I talk about on this campaign is, I’m the candidate. I’m running for this job at this time and I have a 30-year record of how I have worked, and what my values have been in both jobs that I’ve held, that I really worked very hard at. The first one, being a prosecutor and the second one being a trial judge for the past 20 years. I remember when I got appointed to the bench there was an article, because my husband at the time was the mayor, and the article was touting different quotes from lawyers across, you know, Baltimore County and Baltimore City saying that she’s going to be a great judge because she’s so fair. And that’s my reputation, is that I’ve always, even as a prosecutor, when you are perceived to be tough on crime, it’s not necessarily the truth. You have to be making sure that your case has got all the constitutional requirements, that there aren’t any violations of people’s rights, and that you work with defense attorneys on coming up with just solutions. Now, certainly there were cases where, you know, involving rape and murder, where you have to be tenacious in protecting your community where you’re working, and making sure that you work your case up and you present that all the evidence in the best way so that you can protect the community as well look out for the victim of these very serious crimes. But I didn’t have a reputation of just being, you know, a hard, sort of charging prosecutor, and I’ve always had a reputation of being a fair and just jurist as I served for the past 20 years. So I, people haven’t actually asked me that question, DeRay. It’s usually, Tell me why you want to be attorney general, and Tell me what you’ve done that makes you the best person for this job. So you’re actually the first one that’s asked me that question—not that it’s not, it’s a fair question. It’s just I think it’s this day and age when we’re talking about women and what they’ve done in their careers, it should not be about anything but that. It’s shouldn’t be, you know, it should just be about, you know, Vote for me based on my record and what I’ve been doing here in Maryland for the past 30 years.

 

DeRay Mckesson: OK, so now let’s get to the plan. What are you going to do as A.G.? Like, why do you, what will be different about you as AG than the last ten or five? Or like, what can you bring that’s different? You talked about your experience having been a prosecutor, having been a judge. Like, are there initiatives? Are there things that you think we have that we could do a little bit better? You know, Frosh has a great reputation—is there something you’re going to build on? Like, what does that look like with you as AG?

 

Katie Curran O’Malley: Well, you know, in the variety of different areas that we have, we need, I think to, my vision is to continue with a legacy of, you know, protecting Marylanders, promoting really good laws within the General Assembly each year when the sessions convene, and also pursuing justice each and every day for Marylanders, whether it’s involving, you know, a consumer protection complaint or consumer protection case, or if it’s involving mediation with parties, landlords and tenants, and coming up with resolutions for housing disparities. Those are issues I feel very strongly about. And also our environment, because if we don’t have, you know, our bay and our land and our air, if it’s polluted, if we don’t have our environment, then everything else really just doesn’t matter. And we’re getting to a point now where climate change everyone, I believe most people—most sane people—believe that climate change is real. And if we continue to lag on enforcement of the different laws that we have to curb climate change, then we’re really going to be leaving nothing for our children and our grandchildren. And it’s so important that the attorney general work very, very hard to continue to prosecute those cases and hold polluters accountable. So there’s those three areas that I would concentrate on. I also think the Civil Rights Unit, who you know, is run by the Zenita Hurley, it’s a great unit that Brian Frosh established in 2017, but right now it it doesn’t have legal authority to actually enforce civil rights laws here in the state. So if the General Assembly would grant the attorney general the authority to do that, it would greatly expand, I think, the use of that unit and allowing for more practice, you know, patterns and practice, investigations to go on in a variety of different ways and not only in state government but in private businesses in our state of Maryland.

 

DeRay Mckesson: What are ways that people can get involved in the campaign? Is there like, are there upcoming events? Are there, are you looking for volunteers, like what’s that looking like?

 

Katie Curran O’Malley: Yes, we’re always looking for volunteers. We have a western Maryland summit coming up in May, and that’s going to be a fun event. There will be ways to volunteer across, once early voting starts we’ll be able to get people at polling places. We have a website, it’s: Katieformd dot com — and it’s all one word, Katieformd.com, where you can sign up and say you want to be a volunteer. And then we can start, you know, plugging volunteers into different things that we can have them do. We can have them come pick up 20 yard signs and give them out through their neighborhood. So there’s a lot of ways to get involved with the campaign. And we’re really lucky, we’ve gotten lots and lots of volunteers so far to sign up. And just today we had one working here all day with just some manual stuff that we’re putting in the computers. So there’s all kinds of things that volunteers can do to help with this campaign.

 

DeRay Mckesson: Now I want to talk about another issue that I don’t see a lot of AGs talking about, and that’s domestic violence. This is something that you’ve highlighted on as a part of your campaign. Can you talk about what the AG could do around domestic violence? And why do you, you know, there are million topics that you could focus on. This is one of a handful that you put on the site and that you have been talking about. Why this, and what can you do?

 

Katie Curran O’Malley: Well, you know, when I started as a prosecutor in Baltimore County and the District Court, I have to tell you a lot of cases that would come into the District Court were cases involving domestic violence. And I found while I was a prosecutor, not only were they very, very difficult cases to handle just because the victims oftentimes didn’t feel comfortable about talking about the case if they did come to court—most of the times they didn’t come to court, so you couldn’t pursue these cases. But once I got through these sort of evidentiary hurdles in getting a victim to trust myself as their as their representative in court, I then, even if I got a conviction, I would have judges blaming the entire situation on the victim. And it’s almost as though they were abusing the victim all over again through the court system. It was the most alarming thing to me, just because it was talk—about justice! I mean, here’s a woman or man coming in there for help, and the judge would say things like, Well, why did you stay with him or her? You know, look what you’re doing to your children. Did you ever think about your children? Why don’t you care more about yourself? You must have no self-confidence to stay in this relationship. When we all know that the reasons that men or women stay in an intimate partner violent situation has a lot to do with not their self-confidence, but sometimes their ability to stay safe when they leave the abuser. Financially, they may not be able to leave the abuser, they may have children and they might be dependent on the abuser. They love, oftentimes, the abuser, which makes it more complicated than any other type of crime. And so all of these different nuances I found to be part of the things that judges just didn’t understand. And so I became a judge and worked with other judges, and I could see that, you know—we were talking about, there’s really good judges and there’s some that aren’t so—and we found in the judiciary that there was a whole lot of training that was needed so that these issues were brought up when it came to lethality—when you’re talking about bail review issues and lethality issues, and how you can sort of help people stay safe and what you can do with a batterers intervention programs so that you can stop the chain of violence in a home. So, you know, for 20 years as a judge, I have really worked hard to make sure that our judges are trained in this area. And, you know, even when it comes to police and training, training doesn’t necessarily make it all happen, but at least putting people in front of all of the new judges—I would have speakers come when we did our baby judge training, that’s what we called it, baby judge training, for the new trial judges—and we would have speakers come and talk about their experiences in the court system that were really just, you know, some of them extremely sad. And I really think it helps them at least empathize with people and hear from real victims who came to court for justice, so that they would at least think a second time before they would ever say anything that would further endanger a victim in one of these scenarios. And you don’t see the glaring sorts of issues that often, but there are still attitudes and mentalities about domestic violence and intimate partner violence that have remained throughout the years, and I think the more education and the more good journalism bringing light to some of these issues when there are, in fact, you know, some missteps or even tragedies that are created as a result of someone’s interaction in the judiciary. It’s really important. And that’s why we have a pretty robust judicial disciplinary system as well. So, you know, we’ve been catching through the Judicial Disabilities Commission, some of these types of incidences and so, you know, hopefully we’re growing and learning more and more. Because as a result of the pandemic, we’re seeing such an increase in violent crime, but also in intimate partner violence.

 

DeRay Mckesson: And what about what about rape kits? Is there anything that the AG’s office can do? The last I looked, there was a backlog, but I could be wrong that there’s not a backlog anymore.

 

Katie Curran O’Malley: There still is, but it’s being reduced. Attorney General Frosh was able to get legislation passed through the General Assembly in 2017 that established the AG’s office through the Civil Rights Unit to work on getting the reductions a priority. And so that’s still a part of the Civil Rights Unit, where the sex, the testing kits are being monitored throughout the state to make sure that they’re being done in a timely fashion. Because that’s certainly is something, if you don’t get those tests done in a timely fashion, you might lose track of your victim, you might not be able to find that victim again. And it was just it’s a civil rights issue. If you’re a victim of a sex offense, you need to be, especially if you and report it and have to go through everything that entails being a victim of a sexual assault, it’s just completely unjust not to get those test kits processed and in a timely fashion so that the case can be a case that’s, you know, ready to go to court.

 

DeRay Mckesson: And one of the, the last couple of questions when you are around talking to people, what are what are the questions top of mind that you’re hearing from people? You know, when we poll people, it seems like safety is a big deal, the economy is a big deal, but we’d love to know what you’re hearing when you’re talking to voters.

 

Katie Curran O’Malley: You know, it’s two things I’m hearing, especially from younger voters, the environment, and you know, what can we do in the Attorney General’s Office, what can what can the governors do across the nation to stop the climate change issue and keeping environmental polluters accountable for what they’re doing to communities here in our state and across the nation? And, so that’s a big issue. And the other one is public safety. People in my city are really traumatized by the gun violence and the amount of violence that we’re seeing. It’s something, I actually lived here for 59 years and I’ve never seen anything quite like this. The mother of three children was murdered in front of her three children just last week. And you know, there’s so many sad stories like that every single day. I mean, DeRay, I turn on my phone in the morning and there’s three or four stories about these really sad tragedies, so that’s something that I would want to work with Mayor Scott. I know he just devoted—or he received a $10 million grant from the federal government to do, have safe streets, have more oversight so that de-escalation issues and working within communities to try and make sure that violence is the last, or no resort, there’s no resort to violence, that people work together to resolve conflicts. And it sounds like a lot of money is going to be devoted to this area. It’s been sad because we’ve had three safe streets workers murdered over the past few years, and so putting them in, putting them in a safer position to do the work that they’ve been doing is important. And so this, I think, is a really good goal.

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom! Cool. There are two questions we ask everybody. The first is, what’s a piece of advice that you’ve gotten over the years that stuck with you?

 

Katie Curran O’Malley: Piece of advice? You know, the best advice I received for my profession, and I think it applies to everybody’s profession, whether you are a doctor or a lawyer or a health care worker or, you know, a teacher or an educator—I think always being prepared and doing your best. And that’s the advice I got from my father, who said the best attorneys in court are the attorneys that know their case 100% back and forth. You always have to be prepared. Make sure you give all your energy to it and then work as hard as you can for your client—and for me, it was victims in the state’s attorney’s office, and then as a judge it’s been making sure I did my best to rule on cases fairly and justly so that whatever the outcome was, it was the outcome that I believed, and knew was the most fair.

 

DeRay Mckesson: And the last question is, what do you say to people who feel like they’ve done everything they were supposed to do? They emailed, they called, they voted, they testified, they stood in the street, and the world still hasn’t changed like they were promised. What do you say to those people?

 

Katie Curran O’Malley: You know, that’s a good question. I think we have to continue every, each and every day, to fight for what we believe is right and what we believe is ours. And we can’t give up hope and we can’t have hopelessness or helplessness, if you will, when it comes to making our communities and our state a better place for everyone, continually working and striving hard towards that direction. Because if you give up, then nothing will change. And whether that means you stand in a protest line to help workers who are are being defrauded by their employers, or whether that means that you volunteer for nonprofits, whether you help with the distribution of food in your community as a result of the pandemic—I think all of these things can give people a sense of ownership in their communities and a sense of hope when we all work together. I know it sounds corny, but that’s really what people need, they need to work together collectively to help one another, to pay it forward, if you will. Because one day you’re going to need someone to help you. And so continually realizing that we’re, you know, we’re all a community that needs to be together and work together to achieve great things.

 

DeRay Mckesson: Well, let people know the website again so that people can look into how to help out and how to donate.

 

Katie Curran O’Malley: Sure, it’s Katieformd, so Katieformd, all one word, dot com.

 

DeRay Mckesson: Boom. Well, we consider you a friend of the pod and can’t wait to have you back. Thanks for today.

 

Katie Curran O’Malley: Thanks for having me. It’s been fun talking with you all. Thanks.

 

DeRay Mckesson: Well, that’s it. Thanks so much for tuning into Pod Save the People this week. Tell your friends to check it out, make sure to rate it wherever you get your podcasts, whether it’s Apple Podcasts or somewhere else, and we will see you next week. Pod Save the People was a production of Crooked Media. It’s produced by A.J. Moultrie and mixed by Veronica Simonetti, and executive produced by me. Special thanks to our weekly contributors Kaya Henderson, De’Ara Balenger and Myles Johnson.