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Bates defeats Mosby in Democratic primary for Baltimore prosecutor’s job

Ivan Bates, perhaps best known for representing several individuals who were targeted by members of the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force, successfully ran on a platform of addressing repeat violent offenders while avoiding criminalizing poverty. (The Daily Record/File Photo)

Marilyn Mosby, the high-profile Baltimore city prosecutor who aligned herself with criminal justice reformers but ended up with legal problems of her own, has lost the Democratic primary for Baltimore state’s attorney to criminal defense attorney Ivan Bates.

Mail-in ballots that were counted starting Tuesday — and some are still coming in — cemented Bates’ lead. The Maryland State Board of Elections reported Friday evening that Bates had collected 40% of the ballots. A third candidate in the primary, ex-prosecutor Thiru Vignarajah, had pulled ahead of Mosby, 30.4% to 29.8%.

Baltimore is heavily Democratic, and there is no Republican candidate in the race. Roya Hanna is an unaffiliated candidate who has filed to run in November’s general election.

Mosby, who was a two-term incumbent, rose to national prominence in 2015 when she pursued criminal charges against six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, a Black man who suffered a spinal injury after police handcuffed, shackled and placed him headfirst into a van. His death triggered riots and protests. None of the officers was convicted.

In January, a grand jury indicted Mosby on two counts each of perjury and making a false statement on a loan application in purchasing a home in Kissimmee, Florida, and a condominium in Long Boat Key, Florida. She has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The indictment accuses Mosby of falsely stating that the COVID-19 pandemic harmed her finances so she could withdraw $90,000 from her city retirement account. Mosby’s gross salary in 2020 was over $247,000 and never was reduced, according to the indictment.

Bates, who is managing partner of the Baltimore law firm Bates and Garcia, worked as a prosecutor in Baltimore from 1996 to 2002 before becoming a defense attorney. He campaigned on his experience, emphasizing the city needed a change in leadership with ethical, transparent and effective prosecution.

Violent crime has been particularly stark in Baltimore in recent years. There have been more than 300 homicides in each of the past seven years. Earlier this year, Maryland’s largest city experienced its deadliest January in nearly half a century with 36 homicides.

The election was widely seen as a referendum on Mosby’s record, and she faced attacks from all sides. As violent crime pummeled Baltimore during her tenure, politicians on both sides of the aisle blamed Mosby’s policies and management style for the persistent problems. The Baltimore Sun and The Baltimore Banner both reported earlier this year that the state’s attorney’s office had been crippled by staff departures and turnover. 

Mosby’s opponents largely steered clear of the indictment as they sought to block her reelection. Both Bates and Vignarajah homed in on Mosby’s record in office, including her decision during the pandemic to halt prosecution of minor offenses such as prostitution and drug possession. 

Vignarajah, a former deputy attorney general in Maryland, faced allegations during the campaign that he was abusive toward subordinates at previous positions, including at the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office. 

In 2014, Mosby won the position of state’s attorney in an upset, defeating incumbent Gregg Bernstein on a platform that revolved around targeting violent repeat offenders as well as improving the relationship between the state’s attorney’s office and the Baltimore community. 

It took until Friday to call the Democratic primary for Bates because the margins were tighter and a larger number of mail ballots were cast in the race. The election was held Tuesday. Maryland law prohibits counties from opening mail ballots until the Thursday after election day.