After securing the win in the Democratic primary for Baltimore state’s attorney, defense attorney Ivan Bates is poised to become the city’s top prosecutor in 2023.
The Associated Press on Friday called the race in Bates’ favor. He still faces defense attorney and former prosecutor Roya Hanna, who dropped out of the primary to run as an independent in the general election, in November. But Baltimore last elected a non-Democrat to be state’s attorney more than a century ago.
The top prosecutor will inherit an office that State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has helmed for two, four-year terms. The office is short of prosecutors and legal experience.
Here are five things to know about Bates:
Who is Ivan Bates?
Bates is a 53-year-old criminal defense lawyer, Locust Point resident and father of a 6-year-old daughter. A U.S. Army veteran, he is the managing partner of Bates & Garcia, a law firm Bates co-founded in 2006.
A graduate of Howard University and the William & Mary Marshall-Wythe School of Law, Bates has argued federal and state court cases around the country. He attended Howard with the help of the GI Bill and was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity.
In 2006, he served as co-counsel in the U.S. Supreme Court case Maryland v. Blake, arguing police violated Blake’s Miranda rights. The justices moved to dismiss the case shortly after oral arguments.
A mainstay of the Baltimore legal community, Bates ran for Baltimore state’s attorney in 2018, losing in a landslide to Mosby.
What’s in his prosecution plan?
The hallmark of Bates’ “Plan for a Safer Baltimore’' is beefed-up prosecution of illegal gun cases.
Bates proposed working with the judiciary to create a gun court in Baltimore to address firearms cases swiftly. He wants to bolster supervision of those convicted of firearm crimes through the city’s Gun Offender Registry Act, which currently requires gun offenders to report to a police station every six months for five years after their release.
The Democratic nominee for state’s attorney also proposes enhancing victim and witness programs, which Mosby has overhauled with an influx of resources, to include a prosecutor assigned to handle cases of victim or witness intimidation and retaliation.
He also wants to rebuild partnerships with other law enforcement agencies and to establish a community court program to handle many of the low-level offenses Mosby stopped prosecuting. According to the plan, the community court prosecutors would recommend appropriate community service or connect the person accused with diversionary programs, such as drug or mental health courts.
Bates and high-profile cases
Bates represented an officer who was accused of participating in the in-custody death of Freddie Gray. Mosby’s office dropped the charges against Bates’ client.
Bates said he represented about 20 people who were arrested by ex-Baltimore Police Department Sgt. Wayne Jenkins. Jenkins, who led the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force, pleaded guilty to racketeering, robbery and falsifying records and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Bates also was one of the lawyers who represented Michael Maurice Johnson, the man who was acquitted of murder in 2018 after being accused in the 2010 death of 16-year-old Phylicia Barnes following three trials. Bates was on Johnson’s defense team at his first trial, which led to an appeal and overturned conviction.
Bates represented a Drug Enforcement Administration officer who was charged in connection with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars during an investigation into the online marketplace Silk Road. He currently represents a Baltimore County man who is charged in California in connection to a triple homicide.
What was Bates’ record as a prosecutor?
In the 2018 election, Bates repeatedly claimed he had never lost a murder case during his time as a city prosecutor. Bates worked in Baltimore as an assistant state’s attorney from 1996 to 2002 and was a homicide prosecutor his last two years working for former State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy.
He has often used his record against Mosby, who has never tried a homicide case. However, Bates’ political opponents claim Bates lied about his record, showing cases where the charges were dropped, and another case where the defendant was acquitted after Bates left the office.
“Prosecutors are supposed to investigate before they indict, not after,” opposing candidate Thiru Vignarajah said in 2018. “The fact that Mr. Bates dropped murder cases, carjacking cases and other serious felony cases after indicting is very troubling.”
Maryland Policy & Politics
Bates acknowledged in 2018 he dropped at least two murder cases because the defendant was not the actual killer, telling a Baltimore Sun reporter then that he “wanted the trigger puller.”
Prosecutors regularly do not count cases where the charges were dropped when calculating their conviction rates. For example, Mosby regularly boasts a conviction rate upwards of 90% despite having dismissed or dropped nearly 6,000 felony charges since 2019, according to information on her office’s website.
Bates did secure a conviction in a 2002 East Baltimore murder where the defendant was sentenced to life plus 25 years.
Who endorsed Bates?
Bates secured a number of high-profile endorsements during his campaign, including Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen, the only elected city official to publicly come out against Mosby.
Gregg Bernstein, who lost the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office to Mosby in 2014 but remains respected in the city’s legal community, endorsed Bates.
Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Judiciary Chairman Luke Clippinger, both Democrats, were the two most high-profile members of the General Assembly to support Bates.
Other supporters of note include Wanda K. Heard, retired chief judge of the Baltimore City Circuit Court; former mayor Sheila Dixon; and Mary Miller, former acting secretary of the U.S. Treasury and Baltimore mayoral candidate.