By Baynard Woods
This story is part of Collateral Damage, a Real News and Democracy in Crisis investigative series that looks at the damage corrupt police inflict on people, often in law enforcement, who are not their intended targets.
A letter from acting Attorney General Stephen Schenning to Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, and obtained by the Real News, sheds new light on the allegations that there was a leak in the State’s Attorney’s Office who told Wayne Jenkins of the Gun Trace Task Force that officers were under federal investigation. The letter, accompanied by a letter from Mosby’s lawyer, makes it clear that former Assistant State’s Attorney Anna Mantegna was fired as a result of Schenning’s letter—although Schenning recommended that Mosby’s office talk to Mantegna to hear her side of the story.
Mantegna, a 14-year veteran of the State’s Attorney’s Office (SAO), was fired in February and Mosby’s office gave her no reason for her termination. In response to press questions, SAO spokesperson Melba Saunders confirmed that the U.S. Attorney’s Office had shared details of their investigation into the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) with the SAO.
“The [United States Attorney’s Office] has shared components of its GTTF investigation with our office and we are not at liberty to comment. All questions pertaining to the investigation should be directed to the USAO,” Saunders wrote.
The inference was that Mantegna was fired because she was the ASA who tipped Wayne Jenkins, the former sergeant of the GTTF, about the fact that two of its members, Jemell Rayam and Momodu Gondo were under federal investigation.
Mantegna has always maintained that she never informed Jenkins about a federal investigation—and that she, as a relatively low-level prosecutor would have no way of knowing about such an investigation.
In his letter to Mosby, Schenning wrote that the possibility of a leak in the SAO became known to investigators when they intercepted a call between Gondo and Evodio Hendrix. “Gondo told Hendrix that Jenkins had spoken with a female ASA who told Jenkins that some members of the GTTF were under federal investigation,” the letter reads.
“It was possible that there was a non-criminal explanation or that the evidence may not reach a stage where criminal charges would be sustainable or appropriate,” Schenning wrote. “It would be presumptuous of me to tell you how to proceed but you may want to consider getting Ms. Mantegna’s version from her.”
According to Mantenga, the SAO never did that. They simply fired her.
The letter traces the “leak” to a 17-minute conversation between Mantegna and Jenkins on October 5, 2016.
According to Schenning’s letter, Jenkins told the FBI that Mantegna had “advised him to stay away from Rayam because he had just lost a Franks hearing and was being investigated for lying and stealing.” (Schenning underlined the latter part of this statement).
A Franks hearing is used to determine whether an officer lied on an affidavit used to obtain a search warrant. According to Schenning, Jenkins did not say that Mantegna told him it was a “federal” investigation, but that Jenkins had drawn the inference because a sergeant in Internal Affairs had already told him about the federal investigation into GTTF.
The letter says that Mantegna had no reason to believe Jenkins was corrupt and she had called to inform him that “cases with Rayam were not prosecutable.” The letter also says that when she met with the FBI on January 16, Mantegna “confirmed that she she had a phone call with Jenkins on October 5, 2016, in order to warn him about Rayam and Gondo.”
Mantegna does not deny that she told Jenkins that she thought Gondo and Rayam were dirty.
“I told him they were dirty as shit and he better watch them like a hawk,” Mantegna told the Real News.
But she denies that she ever said that was the reason for her call—she called Jenkins, she maintains, because he would not answer her texts trying to schedule court dates for a trial before he went on paternity leave. She says that she offered to let Special Agent Erika Jensen see the texts during their January 16, 2018 interview: “I literally put my fingerprint on it, opened up the texts, and said ‘Here, read it.”
Mantegna says that Jensen did not read the texts, which have been obtained by the Real News.
The messages with Jenkins go back to June 8, 2016—days before Jenkins took over the GTTF and started working with Rayam and Gondo. “Hiya!! It’s Anna. I really need your file on Jamal Johnson and Maurice Hill,” she wrote.
The case involved a car chase that resulted in a crash into the stoop of a church—something that now seems to fit all too well into the pattern in GTTF cases. She wrote again on July 19, asking to “chat about a case” and again when he didn’t answer, on July 20.
On Sept. 5, she wrote: “Hey how are you? I haven’t heard back from you. We’re set to go to trial on Monday the 12th. I’m out of town the 7th through the 11th. That only leaves tomorrow to prep. Let me know what’s going on please. I told the jg you had a family emergency and I was unsure as to your availability.”
“Who do you need” he asked.
“You and Ward for sure,” she wrote. “This is the one where they crashed into the steps of the church and the gun was found on the passenger side.”
“I will be at university of Maryland medical center tomorrow, the sixth floor, my mother in law is having open heart surgery,” Jenkins wrote.
Over the next weeks, other officers were also not available for a wide variety of reasons.
“Hiya! How are you? Since Det Taylor was not available, Jg Doory gave us to October 13th. He’s sending us to trial on that day and said no further postponements.”
“Great,” he wrote.
“I hope that’s a positive great,” Mantegna responded.
On Oct. 5, according to Mantegna’s phone records, which were obtained by the Real News, there were actually three calls with Jenkins. The first was a two-minute outgoing call at 12:37 p.m. Mantegna suspects that she was leaving a voice message about the case. Then at 1:02, Jenkins called her back and the conversation lasted for nine minutes. She thinks they talked about scheduling his crew to go over testimony.
Then she texted him at 3:24 p.m. “Hiya, give me a call back when you have a few. Thanks.”
He called back and they talked for 18 minutes.
That was the call that cost Mantegna her career.
Mantegna and Jenkins continued texting about the case, which she said had been set for October 13. On Oct. 13, Jenkins wrote: “Shit, I have hardwood being installed tomorrow and furniture being delivered. There is no way I can reschedule hardwood.”
Then GTTF member Maurice Ward’s aunt died on Oct. 31. And then, finally, Jenkins wrote from the hospital where his son was born on Nov. 1 and he informed her he would be off work until Feb. 1.
Mantegna says that Jenkins and Gondo came up when discussing he case—even though they hadn’t worked with him when the case started—when she asked him who was in his unit now.
Mantegna had a long-standing friendship with Daniel Hersl, who had recently been moved into the GTTF and was found guilty in a federal trial earlier this year. But when Jenkins mentioned Rayam and Gondo, she told him “they were dirty as shit.”
According to Schenning, Mantegna “advised him to stay away from Rayam because he had just lost a Franks hearing and was being investigated for lying and stealing” (Schenning underlined the latter part of this statement).
Rayam’s Franks hearing was well-known among prosecutors and defense lawyers. On Aug. 26, ASA Robin Wherley wrote an email, obtained by the Real News through a Public Information Act request, to StacyAnn Llewellyn, the head of the Police Integrity Unit, and Janice Bledsoe, the Deputy State’s Attorney over Criminal Intelligence, noting that “J[udge] Williams, who flat out and repeatedly said on the record that Det. Rayam is not a credible witness.”
Mantegna says she did tell Jenkins about the disclosure about Rayam’s lack credibility and Jenkins pretended to be shocked about it in what she calls “an Academy Award winning performance.”
“I specifically said to Jenkins ‘I am not telling you anything that is privileged, this has been litigated in open court on the record many, many times,’” she said. “‘It’s not like I’m telling you something that is a secret here.’ I said ‘I believe the false statement came from an allegation that he stole money or something, I don’t know’ and that he lied to internal affairs when he was being interviewed about it.”
She also told him to watch Gondo. This is what gave Schenning pause.
“The obvious questions that this raises,” Schenning writes. “is that if all she knows about in October, 2016, is that Rayam failed at a Franks hearing, why is she warning Jenkins about Gondo? A fair inference, I think, is that she learned more about this in her conversation with REDACTED and passed the information onto Jenkins.”
Mantegna says that she had not trusted Gondo since since 2006 when he was shot in suspicious circumstances right outside of his house.
“As to Gondo I said I’ve never trusted him since that shooting. That’s what I was referring to,” she said. “That looked like a goddamn hit. Like what the hell are you into?”
She said right after the GTTF indictments, she received a text message from an old friend in homicide who said: “At least now we know what the motive was when he got shot ten years ago.”
Mantegna clarified that she was warning Jenkins because she didn’t want to see big cases brought down by unreliable cops.
“I’m saying watch them like a hawk to prevent further damage from occurring to the citizens of this city,” she said.
Schenning’s letter claims that she became aware of the Franks hearing after the Zachary Newsome case, which was also the subject of Wherley’s email. The case may also shed light on Jenkins’ continuous postponements of the case he had with Mantegna—as a strategy used by GTTF to avoid going to court with people they had robbed.
The Newsome case was used by the government to reject Hersl’s motion for pretrial release as an example of his obstruction of justice.
“On August 24, 2016, Hersl, Gondo, and Rayam were recorded discussing how they could prevent Z.N. from appearing at his trial scheduled for the next day. The Defendants did this so that Gondo would not be called to testify. During the course of its investigation, law enforcement learned that Z.N. was robbed by members of the Gun Trace Task Force. As summarized below, Defendant Hersl urged his co-defendants to arrest Z.N. the day before his scheduled trial in order to trigger a postponement,” the government response read, noting that they laughed at the fact that the ASA wanted to bring the case to trial.
Wherley’s letter indicates that there were questions about going forward with the case after Rayam’s new disclosure, noting that “Rayam is a necessary witness in the case.” The MPIA request did not reveal a response from Bledsoe or Llewellyn.
The SAO nor the USAO have refused to comment. But a letter from Marilyn Mosby’s personal lawyer makes it clear that Mantegna was fired as a result of Schenning’s letter.
“You were terminated after Mr. Schenning informed Ms. Mosby that you had revealed to Jenkins that another officer (who was eventually convicted in the GTTF investigation) was under investigation,” James M. Webster wrote in a cease and desist letter dated April 20, 2018.
Mantenga says that Mosby used her as a scapegoat to push off the bad publicity of a “leak” and says it is part of a pattern of Mosby’s office of “rushing to judgment.” The revelation comes in the middle of an intense campaign for the office. The letter from Mosby’s lawyer came on the same day that Quincey Gamble, who was advising her campaign for re-election, stepped down amid revelations that he was facing charges related to violence against women. Mantegna supports one of Mosby’s opponents, Ivan Bates.
While Webster’s letter to Mantegna makes it clear that she was fired for revealing information to Jenkins, it also asks that she cease and desist from saying that she had been fired for failing to reveal the contents of her conversation with the FBI to Mosby and other officials in the SAO, alleging that such statements are defamatory.
The claims, Webster argues, were made in a filing that stated that “[u]pon good information and belief, Ms. Mantegna was terminated because the Mosby administration feared she was assisting the FBI into their investigation into the Mosby administration as Ms. Mantegna refused to discuss a confidential exchange with FBI investigators on a sealed investigation into the Mosby Administration.”
Mantegna says that her then-lawyer Latoya Francis-Williams only had a short period to make any future claims and was trying to cover her bases in that initial letter.
“I know why she did what she did in order to protect all of my claims and rights if it became a whistleblower situation,” Mantegna said. “In the intent to sue, which is a formal legal document, you have to throw anything and everything in there because we don’t know what may come out.”
But, she says, she is not comfortable with that characterization of her termination and has not used it in any further statements.
Mantegna maintains that she never knew anything about a federal investigation and would never have informed Jenkins if she had. Her career was damaged once before when she had reported an officer’s misdeeds.
“I have a history of immediately turning over information to our police integrity unit,” Mantegna wrote in a letter to Schenning, referring to 2011, when then Detective Joe Crystal told her about police misconduct that had been committed by a sergeant who was friend of hers. But Mantegna immediately contacted Bledsoe, who was in the Police Integrity Unit. Crystal ultimately left the department and it took Mantegna a long time to regain trust among cops. But neither doubted their actions.
“I went to her because I trusted that she was going to tell me the right thing to do legally and morally,” Crystal said over the phone. He blasted the current leadership of the SAO for their handling of the situation, calling it “inept.”
Whatever happens next, Mantegna feels that her long career as a prosecutor, may now be over.
“Whether I vindicate myself or not, my career is pretty much finished. The Feds will never hire me at this point. There’s always going to be a shadow cast on whether or not I did something inappropriate,” she said. “The dreams I had on where I wanted to go and what I wanted to accomplish have been wiped out in one fell swoop.”