Denouncing State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby for maintaining an office “in disarray” as violent crime reaches historic levels, defense attorney Ivan J. Bates today announced his candidacy for Baltimore State’s Attorney.
“We are constantly in a state of mourning because almost every day since 2015, another person is murdered,” Bates said, speaking in Park Heights in front of the former home of Kendal Fenwick, shot and killed in 2015.
“I’m tired of it being acceptable for so many to be killed and victimized when it’s not acceptable anywhere else.”
Bates said the current state’s attorney “has held this job for three years and things have only gotten worse.”
“We need an experienced prosecutor and not a politician,” Bates said to a crowd assembled on blocked-off Park Heights Avenue that at times burst into chants of “Ivan! Ivan!”
Behind him as he spoke was the fence that Fenwick, a 24-year-old truck-driver, had been building to make a safe play area for his children before he was gunned down. Bates used the case to illustrate what he said were the failings of Mosby’s office.
The man accused of killing Fenwick, he said, was a violent offender who had been indicted on attempted murder charges by Mosby’s office and whose case was dismissed.
“Rather than prosecuting this man, a repeat violent offender, for a violation of his drug distribution probation, he was let back into our community by this state’s attorney,” Bates said.
“Within weeks of his release, he allegedly went on a crime wave that unfortunately ended in the shooting death of Kendal Fenwick.”
The crowd grew hushed when Fenwick’s parents, Kevin and Tanya Fenwick, came to the podium.
“If the current state’s attorney had done her job, my son would still be here,” said Kevin Fenwick, fighting back tears as his wife patted his back.
Campaign’s Grim Backdrop
Bates’ announcement signals a new stage in the race for a key criminal justice job in a city grappling with homicides that appear on a pace to again exceed 300 by year’s end.
The 48-year-old defense attorney announced in March he was exploring a possible run against Mosby, who has been holding fundraisers and appearing in neighborhood events all over town in her official capacity.
Since 2015, when her office was unable to get convictions in any of the cases of police officers charged in connection with the death of Freddie Gray, Mosby has struggled at times in the spotlight, clashing publicly with Police Commissioner Kevin Davis recently.
Bates, a Howard University graduate who got his law degree at the William and Mary School of Law, worked in the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s office from 1996 to 2002 and has since been in private practice as a criminal defense attorney.
Originally from Virginia, Bates told the crowd he came to Baltimore in the mid-90s not only to clerk for a judge, but also “to help take care of my elderly Aunt Edna” who lived on North Avenue.
“I remember seeing how the crime in her community paralyzed her,” he said, adding that the experience helped propel his decision to be a prosecutor.
As a defense attorney, Bates represented Baltimore Police Sgt. Alicia White, who was charged with manslaughter in Gray’s death. (White’s case was dropped by prosecutors before going to trial following a mistrial and three acquittals in other officers.)
Standing with the Fenwicks after their son had been killed two years ago, “that was the turning point,” Bates said. “I knew I had to do something.”
Bates joins attorney Chad Curlett in taking on Mosby in the Democratic primary election in June 2018.
“Enabled Police Misconduct”
Bates said, as state’s attirney, he would be both tough and compassionate.
“I will put violent criminals behind bars and I will ensure that everyone is treated fairly,” he said. “I will get results.”
He also said he would advocate for “wrap-around services” when appropriate.
“Our city has a large population of non-violent offenders and ex-offenders,” he said. “We need to focus on diversion, provide drug treatment and mental health treatment and job placement.”
He chastised Mosby for allowing police officers who have since plead guilty to federal racketeering charges to testify in criminal cases.
“We have a state’s attorney that has enabled police misconduct, who knowingly turned a blind eye by putting corrupt police officer on the witness stand,” he said.
He also said Mosby “created an environment” that caused nearly half of the experienced prosecutors in the state’s attorney’s office to leave.
“And we wonder why crime is out of control,” he said.
Ex-prosecutors and an ex-public defender
Several of those former prosecutors were in the crowd today, some of them wearing blue Ivan J. Bates stickers.
One was Oana Brooks.
“We need a state’s attorney who has tried cases, someone who will put people and public safety first and not politics,” said Brooks, who left the state’s attorney’s office in 2015.
Also supporting Bates was Natalie Finegar, who recently left the Public Defender’s office to go into private practice. She said she has “grave concerns” about Mosby.
“People might think, ‘Oh defense attorneys! They’re going to love a disorganized prosecutor’s office – they’re going to take advantage of it,’” she said.
But she said problems in the office ended up hurting her clients, including cases where defense attorneys were not informed that police witnesses were facing federal corruption charges.
“There are people who went to jail that didn’t know there were credibility issues with those officers,” she said.
Under Mosby, she also said, “there are more inexperienced line attorneys that don’t know what they’re doing and then you can’t work together on issues like whether somebody should be receiving treatment.”
Micro-management from above slows down the process, she complained. “They have to go to the front office for approval for any plea deal,” she said.
Attorney William R. Buie III said he thinks Bates would be a good manager. “He would assemble the kind of seasoned staff you need to prosecute these very serious cases,” he said, adding:
“There’s an army of experienced trial lawyers waiting to see if he will be elected and hoping to serve.”