Profile: Ivan Bates, Candidate for Baltimore City State's Attorney
The former prosecutor turned defense lawyer who wants to become a prosecutor again--the city's top prosecutor--doesn't have much good to say about Marilyn Mosby. Most recently he slammed her use of officers from the now disbanded Gun Trace Task Force trials. Here's Bates outside of the State’s Attorney’s office in March.
“As far back as 2009, Officer Rayam had a prior conviction that sustained for false statement, but yet the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s office said he was an officer you can believe in every time they put him on the witness stand," shouted Bates.
Jemell Rayam is one of the six former GTTF officers who pleaded guilty to federal charges. In 2009 he was charged internally with making a false statement to officers investigating the complaint of a Baltimore man who said police took $11,000 from him during a traffic stop.
He complains about Mosby doing nothing about crooked cops, but represented Sargeant Alicia White, one of the six officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. Prosecutors eventually dropped manslaughter charges against her and the administrative charges.
“I saw a black female. I saw the criminal justice system was trying to take advantage of her because they had not done their job," says Bates. "Same way that it’s happened to so many of my clients."
Kurt Schmoke, president of the University of Baltimore and former Baltimore City State’s Attorney, says the biggest obstacle to any anti-incumbent challenger is showing how they would be more effective.
“For Mr. Bates he’s got just the basic problem of any challenger in showing exactly how he’d do it better, I mean it’s easy to criticize," says Schmoke.
Johns Hopkins University Professor and author of Baltimore: A Political History, Matthew Crenson, agrees with Schmoke saying voters may not like the finger pointing.
“He needs to talk about his own experience under Patricia Jesame in the prosecutor’s office," says Crenson. "What he’d do? What is his record? We haven’t heard enough about that yet.”
Bates worked for former State's Attorney Patricia Jessamy from 1996 to 2002 before he left to start his own firm, Bates and Garcia.
Natalie Finegar, a former public defender, met Bates when they faced off in the courtroom. She says she was impressed.
“Here’s a guy [who is] going to come prepared, he’s going to bring his A-game," says Finegar. "And juries are going to understand him, and he understands his witnesses, and his victims’ families, and he gets it.”
Bates thanks the Army for enforcing those skills he has used as a lawyer for the past 23 years. He enlisted out of high school as a vehicle mechanic and while serving in Europe trained at the French Commando School, the equivalent of the U.S. Special Forces.
“So what the army gave me was discipline, it gave me leadership, team work," says Bates. "And it kind of let me understand, really, really hard work.”
He went to Howard University on the GI Bill, law school at the College of William and Mary, and the moved to Baltimore in 1995 and then became assistant state’s attorney in the southwest police district.
“But I don’t really know the community and I don’t know what the community is going through," says Bates. "So how can I be a prosecutor if I haven’t merged myself in the community?”
So, he became a basketball coach at Rognel Heights Elementary/Middle School on Sidehill Road.
“I learned a lot about the kids. I learned a lot about the community. And I learned about the needs of the community, so I felt that made me a better prosecutor," says Bates.
He says that's part of his plan to change things in the state's attorney's office; to put prosecutors back in police districts. Bates also says he also wants to rebuild trust in the community—which he says—starts with being truthful about the actual conviction rate of the SA’s office. Mosby’s 2017 report shows a 92 percent conviction rate for felonies. He doesn't buy it.
"There is no 92, 93 conviction rate because under Bernstein and Jesame. It was in the 70s. And are you safer now than you were in three years," says Bates. "So we can just throw that out.”
His plan involves directing non-violent offenders to drug and mental health courts, and lowering recidivism rates.
“Who you going to ask in a crisis to save your loved one’s life," says Bates. "The doctor you may not know and put a team together and none of them had ever performed open heart surgery. Or the doctor who is one of the bests and saves lives, every day. So that’s the choice the citizens are going to have to make.”
The choice of a prosecutor will be up to the Democratic primary voters in June. There are no Republicans in the race.