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Bates asks for patience as he prepares to ‘rebuild’ Baltimore state’s attorney’s office

Ivan Bates, the Democratic nominee for Baltimore state’s attorney, pledged at a news conference Monday to prosecute gun cases more aggressively but also asked for patience as he prepares to take over the job of top prosecutor from two-term incumbent Marilyn Mosby.

Bates, a 53-year-old criminal defense attorney, is favored to win the general election in November after his victory in the Democratic primary last week. There is no Republican candidate in the race, though Bates will face Roya Hanna, an independent candidate who originally filed to run as a Democrat.

Bates defeated Mosby, Baltimore’s polarizing top prosecutor who is herself facing criminal charges, by more than 10 points after a drawn-out ballot-counting process.

Ivan Bates, the winner of the Democratic primary for Baltimore state’s attorney, spoke at his campaign headquarters on July 25, 2022. Former Mayor Sheila Dixon introduced him. (Madeleine O’Neill/The Daily Record)

At a news conference Monday at his campaign headquarters on Reisterstown Road, Bates said he would work to rebuild the State’s Attorney’s Office, which under Mosby has lost dozens of prosecutors and faced criticism from both sides of the aisle for its handling of crime.

Surrounded by local elected officials who supported his campaign, Bates pledged to pursue mandatory minimum prison sentences for people caught with illegal handguns.

“We’re not going to go back to mass incarceration, but there will be accountability at all levels,” Bates said. “That includes me. I ask for your patience and I ask for your support. At the end of the day, we will have a safer city.”

Bates said he will reverse Mosby’s non-prosecution policy for low-level offenses, including prostitution and drug possession. The controversial policy was celebrated by criminal justice reform advocates, but also faced criticism from business owners and police leaders who said they were not notified of the change in advance.

“A lot of it is just going to be attitude and making sure that we enforce the law,” Bates said of his approach.

Bates said he wants to institute a “community court” in Baltimore’s district courts where citations for low-level offenses will be handled. He also reiterated his position that squeegee workers should not be working on the city’s streets, a topic that has been in the spotlight after a man who swung a bat at squeegee workers downtown was fatally shot earlier this month.

A 15-year-old boy has been charged as an adult with first-degree murder in the shooting.

Bates said that while he does not want to prosecute squeegee workers, that will be an option if they decline services and diversion programs.

He said his office will also take more cases to trial and will work with Baltimore police to make sure cases are strong before bringing charges. Bates said he will work with federal prosecutors to put additional pressure on people caught with illegal guns.

“We are putting the criminal element on notice,” Bates said. “There’s no more probation. We win, you will go to prison, and for a significant amount of time.”

Mosby’s relationships with law enforcement have been strained for years, in part because 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 in 2015 triggered riots and protests. None of the officers was convicted.

Mosby is also under federal indictment. She faces two counts each of perjury and making false statements on loan applications, to which she has pleaded not guilty. Her trial is set for September.

The indictment alleges that Mosby falsely claimed to have suffered pandemic-related financial harm so that she could withdraw $90,000 from her city retirement account. She is also accused of making several false statements when she applied for mortgages on two Florida vacation homes.

Mosby first won the job of state’s attorney in 2014, when she pulled off an upset against incumbent Gregg Bernstein.

Bernstein supported Bates during the campaign and celebrated his win at Monday’s news conference.

“There is much work to be done, and it’s going to take time and effort to accomplish the kinds of things that Ivan has set out to do,” Bernstein said. “These are intractable problems that are not going to be solved overnight, and we need to be patient and we need to let him build his team to start the process of turning this ship around.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.