District Attorney Andrea Harrington sees her role as Berkshire County’s “minister of justice.”

Andrea Harrington: How the District Attorney's Office seeks to minimize harm in the Berkshire criminal justice system

“With that power comes great responsibility,” Ms. Harrington wrote in a commentary The Eagle published last month. “The people that I serve elected me to do more than win at all costs in an adversarial legal system. The role of elected district attorney as a ‘minister of justice’ calls on my office to exercise our discretion wisely and in the public interest.”

So when the minister of justice attacks the integrity of the justice system in support of a federally indicted public official, which Ms. Harrington did in a Jan. 14 tweet, the people have reason to wonder if, in reality, that discretion is wise and in the public’s interest.

“Seeing the justice system used against @MarilynMosbyEsq is scary for those of us taking on the status quo,” Ms. Harrington’s tweet stated.

Ms. Harrington’s tweet was made in support of her colleague Marilyn Mosby, the state’s attorney in Baltimore. This month, a federal grand jury indicted Ms. Mosby who now faces charges of perjury and making false mortgage applications. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Ms. Mosby lied on federal forms in order to finance two Florida vacation homes she bought in 2020. Ms. Mosby maintains her innocence and says the charges against her are retaliation for bringing criminal charges against six Baltimore police officers in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray.

Ms. Harrington’s tweet raised serious questions. But Ms. Harrington isn’t seriously answering. Instead, Ms. Harrington punted questions about this to her campaign strategist who provided a well-crafted response without providing an actual answer.

Ms. Mosby and Ms. Harrington are friends, political allies and members of Fair and Just Prosecution, a movement of local prosecutors seeking a “justice system grounded in fairness, equity, compassion, and fiscal responsibility.” Perhaps Ms. Harrington supports her friend in a difficult time. Nevertheless, it is difficult to understand why the chief law enforcement officer of Berkshire County would attack the justice system for bringing these particular charges against Ms. Mosby.

Though Ms. Harrington has since deleted the tweet, the serious questions remain. Ms. Harrington owes the citizens of Berkshire County a full explanation as to why she attacked the integrity of the justice system for pursuing this case.

Does Ms. Harrington perceive that perjury or filing a false statement to obtain a bank loan is such a minor offense that it should never be prosecuted?

Does she believe that people “taking on the status quo,” including public officials whose job is to enforce the law, are entitled to a pass on telling the truth as a condition to receiving government benefits?

In the absence of a full explanation, we are left wondering if Ms. Harrington actually read the indictment before choosing to publicly and baselessly cast doubt on this federal case outside of her jurisdiction. A reading of the indictment would lead most to dispel the contention that the charges against Mosby are frivolous or political. A political enemy might have brought the underlying facts to the attention of the U.S. attorney in Maryland, but what else could that U.S. attorney do after being presented with such compelling evidence that an important, elected official blatantly broke the law to her own advantage?

It has been suggested that what Ms. Harrington tweets about a friend or a colleague on a Saturday morning is not a matter of serious concern. That contention could have merit, except that the Berkshire district attorney is a powerful enforcement officer. The position comes with the broadest discretion as to who will be charged and with what offenses. As Ms. Harrington wrote in her column, with the minister of justice’s power comes great responsibility.

It is fair to ask whether someone who can make light of credible charges of fraud and perjury has the good judgment and moral authority to exercise such discretion.

This editorial page has suggested that Ms. Harrington spend more time attending to the business of being district attorney and less on political activity. It is ironic that the DA is so willing to weigh in on an open case brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland given her office’s repeated stonewalling on critical questions relevant to open cases in the county she is supposed to serve.

There is persuasive evidence that the district attorney’s office is foundering under Andrea Harrington. It took her office two years to charge the men involved in a high-speed automobile accident that killed a man driving to church. Her office was forced to delay or abandon the trials of several longstanding, important cases because witnesses were unavailable. So, to our entreaty that Ms. Harrington focus on her deadly serious duties, we must add that it is time for her to forthrightly answer questions raised by her behavior.