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Guest Host: Diane Vogel
Kojo chats with outgoing Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Glenn Ivey.
- Glenn Ivey State's Attorney, Prince George's County (Md.)
MS. DIANE VOGELFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your community with the world. I'm Diane Vogel, managing producer of the show, sitting in for Kojo.
MS. DIANE VOGELLater in the broadcast, it's your -- later in the broadcast, we'll be talking about food safety, but first, the man wrapping up his turn at prosecuting crimes in Prince George's County. States Attorney Glenn Ivey announced yesterday that a grand jury charged a Virginia Beach man in a sweeping mortgage fraud scheme. It's the latest prosecution in a string of mortgage scams that has taken place in Prince George's County, what's considered these days Maryland's foreclosure capital. And it's likely to be one of the last place -- cases Glenn Ivey will handle as states attorney, the job he's held for the past eight years. He's in the studio with us today to talk about this case, specifically to talk about mortgage scams in general, and to reflect upon his time at the intersection of politics and the prosecution of crime in Prince George's County. Welcome, Glenn Ivey. Good to see you. Thank you for being here.
MR. GLENN IVEYThanks for having me.
VOGELWell, why don't we start with this case, because it really surprised everyone, I think? Not shocked, perhaps, but surprised.
VOGELA grand jury indicted the lawyer, his name was Howard Shmuckler, I believe, on some 30 counts. He's been accused of promising loan modifications to hundreds of home owners and swindling many of them out of thousands of dollars. Tell us a little bit about who he was, what the -- and what the fundamental issues underlying this case are for you and for the residents of Prince George's County.
IVEYWell, I mean, this is a case that involves, as you mentioned, home mortgage scams. You know, it's -- and we, unfortunately, we have a lot of this as you mentioned in the lead in.
IVEYPrince George's County has a lot of foreclosure issues and there are a lot of scams that follow different models, but the up-front fees was the issue here. And as we announced yesterday at the press conference, Mark Coffin was there from the state department that deals with the licensing of these issues. Up-front fees are illegal in Maryland. So...
VOGELThat's flat out illegal.
VOGELIn other words, you can't say to someone I'm gonna get you a loan modification or I'm gonna get you a good interest rate, but first, you have to pay me $50 or $500 or $1,000.
IVEYYeah, that's what he told us. So you know, one of the key things for listeners to know is if someone's proposing that, you need to shut it down immediately and reach out and get help. There are a lot of agencies here in the state of Maryland, and I'm -- this is true nationally as well -- don't try and go it alone, reach out to one of the governmental agencies or the nonprofits, they can help out as well.
VOGELI would imagine that there -- it's hard here because a lot -- I understand, a lot of the people he targeted were targeted in the Hispanic communities. He was --- he used Spanish language ads and others. How much is that community exposed to that more than the general community in Prince George's County? Is it that Prince George's County has been putting ads and information about how to help yourself during the foreclosure crisis but they weren't put out in Spanish? Or in other words, has this population been particularly at risk?
IVEYWell, I mean, scams know no language barrier, unfortunately. You know, everybody is getting subjected to this type of activity. And the models are similar. Mass media outreach to sort of generate interest, targeting people who are in the most vulnerable situation, frequently they're under water on their mortgages and desperate to get assistance. And so they respond to these things, so -- these kinds of ads. So that's the community. We've been trying to do a public education outreach, the governor and the states has been doing it, the county government's been doing it as well. But clearly, we're not reaching as many people as we should to get the message out.
VOGELNow, do you see a relationship between -- well, I should -- I assume you see it, but what do you see is the relationship between today's economics and the foreclosure crisis and Prince George's County being the epicenter? Why is it that Prince George's County has a higher rate of foreclosure than other areas of Maryland?
IVEYWell, I mean, one of the issues that was -- I think is still being targeted, is to what extent loan officers and some of the lending institutions were targeting minorities for some of the riskiest loans that now have gone south and people are in --- either losing their house or at the -- you know, on the cliff? And so I think that's a big part of the problem. I know the fed, the federal government has taken a look at this and there were some steps taken in the financial reform bill last year. But you know, I think that at every level, the government, local, state and federal, will gonna have to do a lot more to help keep people in their houses. They're just record rates.
IVEYAnd you're right, Prince George's County does have, you know, the high numbers in the state of Maryland, but really, the numbers are pretty astonishing almost everywhere you look nationwide. And so I think this is a crisis that, you know, the federal government needs to address a little more extensively and there's a role for states and locals as well, including the financial industry that helped to spawn this problem.
VOGELWe're talking with Glenn Ivey, the states attorney for Prince George's County. He is gonna be retiring, handing over the baton (laugh) of this job next week to a woman named Angela Alsobrooks.
VOGELAnd we'll ask you in a moment what your advices for her. But in the interim, I wanna hear from you. Have you been following the career of Prince George's County's States Attorney Glenn Ivey? Do you live in Prince George's County and have you seen dramatic changes one way or another in terms of crime in the last eight years? Give us a call at 1-800-433-8850, 1-800-433-8850, to join the conversation. You can ask Mr. Ivey questions about any range of crimes that you may recall from his -- jury that occurred and that he prosecuted during his tenure. I will say that it's clear that the legal community has some quite good respect for you. I saw the statistic that more than 25 of the prosecutors that have worked under you in your office have gone on to become judges or hold major posts in the Department of Justice or even with the War Crimes Prosecutors in Kosovo. So congratulations on that. What is it about the people who've worked under you? Do you think there's something about the office culture you've created that helps that, or did you just hire good people?
IVEYWell, I think it's been a good office for a while, so I hope that I've added to that. And certainly, I think we have hired some outstanding people, and some of the people who went on to become judges or Justice Department officials, you know, were hired by previous state's attorneys. So I don't want to take credit for all of it, but I do feel proud of the fact that, you know, clearly, people feel that we're doing a good job of training and preparing these attorneys to be able advocates in court. And that's why they're, you know, the federal prosecutors are snapping them up -- the United Nations, as you mentioned, judges. DOD has hired one of my former prosecutors to work on Guantanamo Bay issues. So it's something I feel good about, for sure, and, you know, I've had a -- like one was just -- the president appointed to one of the commissions, the U.S. Parole Commission, so that's our presidential appointee, you know, at the...
VOGELFeather in the cap?
IVEYOh, yeah. That was neat. That was neat. Eric Holder swore her in. So it was a neat day.
VOGELTerrific. You're listening to WAMU's "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." I'm Diane Vogel, managing producer of the show, sitting in for Kojo. We're talking with Glenn Ivey about the intersection of politics and prosecution and of crimes in Prince George's County, and you can join the conversation at 1-800-433-8850. 1-800-433-8850. Or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Crime rates this year, Glenn, were down for Prince George's County, which is great. But I understand that statistics also indicate that the county had more rapes, burglaries and stolen vehicles than Baltimore, and I think that that's something that would surprise people. My guess is that a lot of people would imagine that Baltimore County would have taken the lead on -- Baltimore City, I'm sorry -- would have taken the lead on rapes, burglaries and stolen vehicles. Do you have anything you can account for that? What factors do you think affect the level of crime and where it happens in the state?
IVEYWell, I think it depends. I mean, auto theft, you know, frankly, Prince George's County became the regional capital for auto theft, you know, six, seven years ago. We cut those numbers by...
IVEY...60 percent, yeah.
VOGELYeah, like 19,000 down to about 5,000 annually.
IVEYYeah. It was a very dramatic drop, and, you know, the police department had a great role in that. The county executive put a task force together that I thought did a great job of the work there, and, you know, we made a difference on that front. The sexual assaults, I know -- actually, Congress has taken a look at reporting differences. I don't want to single out Baltimore City or any particular jurisdiction, but, you know, how those are reported and -- you know, there were some very significant issues that were raised, let me it that way. And I think it's critical for us to make sure that were across the board, Prince George's County all -- but nationally as well, focusing on rape, making sure that they're being reported accurately and, most importantly, making sure that survivors get the help and support that they need and aggressive prosecution in court.
IVEYNow, earlier today, I understand, on "News Talk" with Bruce DePuyt, I understand you had given an indication that Prince George's Police Chief Hylton would likely or would be replaced when new County Executive Rushern Baker takes office. I understand that that was said this morning. Can you elaborate anymore on that? Have you had conversations with Rushern about this, either -- since your conversation on air with Bruce?
VOGELWhat can you tell us?
IVEYYeah. He was on Bruce DePuyt's show.
VOGELOh, I'm sorry.
IVEYI was on a different show but...
IVEYNo, I mean, no. I'm not being the surrogate form on this, but my expectation is that he's going to make a change in the chief role. I think things have been positive in the department and some -- you know, under Chief Hylton and Chief High and a lot of respects I think -- especially the internal investigations of shootings, you know, with respect to police misconduct, I think they made huge strides on that front. And we prosecuted some based on the work that they did from an investigative standpoint, and it allowed us to get some of the first state court convictions on those types of cases. And I think, overall, you know, violent crime, as you've mentioned, has been dropping overall. We're at generational lows, 30-year lows for violent crime, especially homicides. So clearly, the police are doing something right. Clearly, those chiefs did something right, but I think he's gonna go in a different direction.
VOGELAll right. Well, I will look forward to Rushern Baker, who I know is a confidant of yours or vice versa, perhaps, might be the way to say it. We're looking forward to hearing from him as soon as he gets into office later this month. But we want to continue talking with you right after this break. The number again to join the conversation is 1-800-433-8850. 1-800-433-8850. Or you can e-mail us at email@example.com. Or send us a tweet @kojoshow. I'm Diane Vogel, managing producer of the show, sitting in for Kojo. We'll be right back.
VOGELWelcome back. I'm Diane Vogel, sitting in on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." I'm talking with Maryland State's Attorney for Prince George's County, Glenn Ivey, who is wrapping up eight years in the position serving the county. You can join our conversation by calling 1-800-433-8850 or e-mailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We're gonna go right to the phones because lots of people are waiting to speak with you, sir. And we'll go to Pam first in Bowie, Md. Pam, you're on the air.
PAMThank you very much. Well, first of all, I want to just thank Glenn for his service over these past eight years. Glenn has been just an incredible supporter of the work that my organization does, which is Stop the Silence: Stop Child Sexual Abuse and we're located in Prince George's County. And it's -- I just want to say that child sexual abuse is such an important issue and really does not get the attention that it needs, given that more than one in four girls and about one in six boys have been sexually abused in the United States by the time their 18. And Glenn has really taken a focus on this and pushed the issue forward. And I just want to also express the hope that the person who does step in for him, probably can't fill his shoes, but I hope that they do certainly, across the board, and with regards specifically to child sexual abuse. So thanks, Glenn, for your help and service.
VOGELAnd thank you, Pam, for calling. Go ahead.
IVEYWell -- and thank you for the work that you do. And clearly, child sexual abuse is a major challenge. It's difficult to prosecute. It's difficult to investigate. And a lot of times, juries don't have a real taste for hearing these kinds of cases and also funding for these kinds of efforts. I mean, if you look at, you know, adults that have problems, frequently, child sexual abuse is part of that, you know, profile. So I think if there's a way that we can do more to address that, we should really be very aggressive about it.
VOGELAnd is there a specific one or two strategies or game plans that you can recommend to your successor, Angela Alsobrooks? Perhaps something that you would hope to get accomplished with regard to sexual violence that didn't get accomplished during your tenure or something else?
IVEYWell, I think a lot of it is you know -- before prosecution or after, you know, I'd love to see longer sentences when you get convictions on these cases, and I think, you know, treatment for survivors is critical. And I know, sometimes, it's hard to identify it, but when we do, I think we have to be very aggressive in providing the types of resources that are needed to help survivors get through that.
VOGELMm-hmm. Well, and I don't know -- Pam probably knows much more about Ms. Alsobrooks than I would because Pam's living and working in the county...
VOGEL...and knows her stuff, I'm sure. But for the audience members, they might be interested to know that Ms. Alsobrooks, not only as a Prince George's County native, and that she spent the last couple of years as the executive director of the Prince George's County Revenue Authority, which oversees the money that comes in from parking meters and the lot. But more importantly, before that, she worked in the county executive's office on education issues and with the county prosecutor's office handling domestic violence.
VOGELSo this is not something that will be unfamiliar to her.
IVEYNo. She's very well grounded on these issues. And across the board, I think she's gonna be an excellent state's attorney.
VOGELAll right. We're gonna take the next call from -- we're gonna go to, let's say, Susan in Hyattsville, Md. Susan, you're on the air.
SUSANHi. Thank you for taking my call. And thank you, Mr. Ivey, for the fine work you've done. I'm familiar with you because, as the wife of the police chief of the city of Hyattsville, my husband constantly commends you for the integrity you've brought to the office and specifically for your work with municipal police departments. There are 27 in the county and that's a big task, and I was wondering if you'd like to comment on why you've been so successful working with them. And again, thank you for your service to the county.
IVEYWell, thank you and thank you to Chief Holland. He's done an outstanding job as the Hyattsville Police Department has done. My chief investigator actually was a chief of two municipalities. So, you know, we have a good liaison relationship and understand the perspective. But most importantly, you know, we need all hands on deck. I mean, we've got a lot of police in the county but not as many as we need. There have been increases in the ranks over the last five or six years, but you know, the coordinated efforts between county police, municipal police, metropolitan police in the district and federal authorities is the way to go.
VOGELThank you for calling us, Susan. And speaking of police and municipalities, it's probably the right time to transition to a conversation about the unfortunate challenges that Prince George's finds itself facing right now when Jack Johnson -- County Executive Jack Johnson and his wife are under federal investigation for taking bribes. That investigation, it's my understanding, also spans out into the police department and into a number of other agencies with regard to development and otherwise. I'm wondering if you can first address for me where you first learned -- you know, I know as a prosecutor, you're not necessarily at the front of the investigation. But I'm curious where you were when you first learned about the federal investigation, and what you can tell us about any role that your office or the Prince George's County prosecutors have played in it.
IVEYWell, that was a federal investigation and continues to be. So I was given notice about it. But my office didn't play any lead role in it. But...
VOGELHow long before this all came out -- was your notice? Did you know about this for...
IVEYYeah. Not very long in advance. But, you know, I thought that was fine. You know, it's a -- this is a very sensitive investigation they conducted that included wiretaps. And, you know, I didn't feel troubled by them keeping it narrowly focused and only informing people on a need-to-know basis. You know, because that's the kind of investigation where if word gets out, it can really undermine it. And so, I thought it was appropriate the way the federal officials, the U.S. attorney's office and the FBI handled it.
VOGELYou're listening to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." I'm Diane Vogel, managing producer of this show, sitting in for Kojo. We're speaking with Glenn Ivey. He's served for the last eight years as the Maryland State's Attorney in Prince George's County. And he transitions out of that office next week. We're gonna go back to the telephone, and I'm gonna ask Marney to weigh in. Marney, you're on the air.
MARNEYThank you. I wanted to make a comment. I'm a teacher in D.C. public schools currently, but had been a teacher in Prince George's County schools. And just with respect to the kind of corruption that has taken place within that county, I was part of the school where the principal encouraged the teachers to take copies of the MSA, the standardized tests, and actually take the questions and teach the actual test to the student. And so, when that happened, I actually chose to leave the District and came over to Washington schools. But at any rate, the tiers that have to have taken place in terms of the people who gave the test to the principal and then passed down to the teachers, and the fact that this is something that happened as general practice but hasn't really been reported just speaks to the widespread cheating that's not helping to educate an already underserved population.
IVEYWell, yeah. I mean, I certainly agree and I appreciate you bringing that to light. I think it'll be critical for the schools to take a look at that because -- and I've got four of my kids in the public school. So I care deeply about what happens with public education at Prince George's County. And I agree that if that is, in fact, what's taking place, it's really defeating the purpose of trying to teach our kids what they need to know. So, you know, if there's anything I can do to help you, you know, contain to bring that to light or, you know, get it to the attention of the school board, the incoming county executive or anyone who can help to address it, feel free to let me know.
VOGELThanks, Marney, for calling today. Speaking of corruption, we can ignore that people have called Prince George's now a place that has a culture of corruption. You've spent eight years there hoping to root out corruption.
VOGELDoes this investigation kind of happening at the end of your tenure feel like of indication or an undermining of that? I guess my question is, is -- what do you think of -- how do you respond to the allegations that there is a culture of corruption? And does this FBI investigation sort of get you to question how successful you were on ridding out corruption?
IVEYWell, clearly, there's you know corruption issues in the county. And, you know, we've had it be very well-documented with respect to the federal investigation you mentioned. There've been, you know, investigations into the police department. We've actually -- my office has actually prosecuted other officials in the county previously and referred others to the state prosecutor, which handles Maryland cases. Yeah, I mean, we had some success. We've got in a couple of convictions that looks like the federal investigations moving forward. But, clearly, there's a lot more work that needs to be done. I think, Mr. Baker's suggestion about an inspector general is an idea that makes a lot of sense, taking additional steps to root that out. I think, he's gonna be critical. Federal or state prosecution is always appropriate for people who were stealing money and violating the law. So I think we -- you know, we may feel a little bit like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill. But, you know, it’s something that we need to continue to do and be vigilant and aggressive in handling it.
VOGELWell, posted on our website, Andy, put a comment that asked, "Please, please ask Mr. Ivey where he and his colleagues were while of this alleged corruption was taking place?" I guess Andy's trying to ask, did you do everything you could do? Do you feel now in retrospect, perhaps, I missed a shining spotlight, what here or there? What are you learning from the federal investigation that -- are there loop holes or things you might have missed yourself?
IVEYWell, I think it's too early to know. The charges that they brought against the Johnsons are based on the wiretap that they conducted that day. And I, you know, they look like strong charges, but certainly I didn't have access to the wiretap. And I -- you know we've worked closely with, you know, the U.S. attorney's office and other cases. And I don't have a problem with them taking the lead on this or, you know, talking a solo role on it. The key is really to get it done. And as I mentioned before, I mean, we have prosecuted officials within the county government. I think in this particular instance, though, it ended up in the right place. This is a situation where, apparently, they were targeting the county executive. And so, when I brought on slates with previously, we would have done an investigation that would have used police officers that are indirectly hired by the county executive. And we don't have the capability to do a nine-month wiretap. So the fact that the FBI took the lead -- they had the sources and methods to bring this to fruition -- and that the federal prosecutors, the Department of Justice are handling it now, I think, makes complete sense. And really, it ended up in the right place.
VOGELAnd from -- we'll move off this conversation with this last question. It's not asked to you as -- in your official capacity as state's attorney, but it's asked to you as a resident of Prince George's County. Should Leslie Johnson take the oath of office and begin serving on the council while she's under investigation?
IVEYI mean, you know, my sense in talking with people in the community is the view is kind of change on this. I think initially people were really stunned and thinking, well, you know, let's see how it plays out. But I think at this point, people in the community -- and I share this view -- would like to see a fresh start, you know, give Mr. Baker, give the new county council a fresh start. Let's allow that to be dealt with on the tracks, and it's gonna be dealt with in that sense to courts. But let's let them get off and focus on the things that they need to focus on, public safety, public schools...
IVEY...the issues that he campaigned on and went on. I think we all create an environment where those can be front and center as opposed to these other issues.
VOGELAll right. So the presumption, is in a sense, she should still step aside is what you're essentially saying, despite this presumption of innocence?
IVEYYeah. I'm not -- we're not saying we're presuming she's guilty, but I think for the benefit of the county, yeah. I think she should.
VOGELAll right. We'll go back to the phones for one last call. Ron, I'm gonna put you on the air. Ron, you're there?
RONHello. Mr. Ivey, I'm calling about the Ronnie White case. I lived -- I'm a former resident of Prince George's County, living there over 30 years. And what I saw the whole time was it is was always dangerous just to have the police pull you over. And there were numerous people who were murdered by the police and nothing ever happens. And I'm wondering why no one -- out of all of the people who were on duty that night, no one was indicted?
IVEYWell, two parts to that. One, the first that you should...
VOGELWe could remind the audience that the Ronnie White case is that he was accused of harming, was it a murdering of Prince George's County police officer.
VOGELHe was brought into custody and he somehow died overnight.
IVEYYeah. He was found dead in jail I think it was two days later.
IVEYTwo things on that. The first that you should know is that the Department of Justice has been reviewing that case for about 16 months now. We did an investigation. I concluded at that time I didn't have sufficient evidence to charge anyone with killing Ronnie White. You know, the Department of Justice has been looking at it for 16 months. They haven't come to a conclusion one way or another, but, you know, I thought this one where giving them a chance to take -- to review it for the reasons you stated. It made sense. And so we look forward to their conclusions.
VOGELThank you for calling, Ron. Our time is quickly running down. My last question, sir, you were here about a year ago and you were talking to us about a possible run for Congress. (laugh) You clearly decided in the end term not to do that...
VOGEL...I'm wondering what we can expect from Glenn Ivey...
IVEYYou know the...
VOGEL...in the future, where are you gonna show up next time? We know that, as we said your confidant, Rushern Baker, is taking the office of county executive, I believe next week, he...
VOGEL...he begins. But I also understand that your term actually doesn't run concurrently with his, that yours actually last through the end of this year...
VOGEL...just for whatever odd reason that is. But where can we expect you to go starting in 2011?
IVEYWell, I'm gonna return to private practice. But the interesting about that show is that Tom Sherwood -- I said I'm launching an exploratory committee to decide whether I should run or not, or whether I wanted to. And he said in his 40 years in the journalism business, people who say that always run. So Tom... (laugh)
VOGELWe will thank you, Glenn Ivey, for proving Tom wrong. The exception proves the rule.
IVEYWe'll break the streak, yeah, we'll break the streak. But I'm gonna go to private practice. I wanna stay active in the county. I'm leaving public office but not public service. I wanna continue to be helpful. And my wife, Jolene Ivey, is a delegate...
IVEY...and we'll continue to serve.
VOGELA delegate and also Mocha Mom...
VOGEL...on "Tell Me More" with Michele Martin, heard here after our show everyday. Glenn Ivey, thank you very much for your service to the county, to the region. Glenn Ivey has served for the last eight years as Maryland state's attorney in Prince George's County. I'm Diane Vogel, "Kojo Nnamdi's" managing producer, sitting in today for Kojo. We'll be right back and we'll be talking about food safety and what gets on your table and what doesn't after this break.
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