Career public defender joins Baltimore State's Attorney leadership team

Career public defender joins Baltimore State's Attorney leadership team in shuffle

The Baltimore State's Attorney's Office announced the hiring of a longtime public defender to serve as a deputy, with two other deputies moving to new roles.

Valda Ricks, who had been with the Maryland public defender's office for 25 years, will become a new deputy state's attorney overseeing operations, according to an email sent to employees of the office. The current deputy overseing operations, Patricia DeMaio, will oversee the major crimes division, with the current head of major crimes moving to a new position of "chief counsel."

Ricks' hiring brings another longtime defense attorney into a top leadership position in the city prosecutor's office under State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby.

Ricks and deputy state's attorney Janice Bledsoe were career defense attorneys – with the exception of Bledsoe's stint as a police misconduct prosecutor – while Chief Deputy State's Attorney Michael Schatzow spent an early part of his career as a federal prosecutor, leaving for private defense work in 1985.

"They're being brought in because of their experience – they're going to bring quite a bit of value to the office," said spokeswoman Rochelle Ritchie.

In an email to her staff, Mosby said Ricks recently retired from the public defender's office, where she was the chief attorney of the misdemeanor trial division for Baltimore.

DeMaio, a former district attorney in Philadelphia and former Howard Law School teacher, joined the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office in 2008 and served in the domestic violence and sex offense units. She left in 2011 to take a job in the insurance industry, returning in 2015 to join Mosby's team. She'll oversee the major investigations, homicdie, special victims and felony trial units.

Antonio Gioia will move to the newly-created role of "chief counsel." Gioia, whose career began as a public defender, has been a prosecutor for more than 15 years, including overseeing the training and narcotics divisions. He was part of the team of prosecutors that investigated the death of Freddie Gray for the State's Attorney's Office.

Mosby wrote that Gioia had "served as our honorary legal genius for many years" and was being promoted to the new role of chief counsel. In that position he will "identify, address, and oversee complex legal issues that arise throughout the entire agency, including but not limited to, emerging technology and investigatory tools that impact our prosecutions."

The email said he would also remain involved with public information act requests submitted to the agency, so-called Unger cases, complex post-conviction matters and other appellate matters.

"He was being used in so many different capacities to address difficult issues, our office felt, why not have him in that role where we have our own counsel within the office to address some of these issues that arise?" Ritchie said. "That's really going to help our office make sure that other obligations are not necessarily put on the back burner."

jfenton@baltsun.com

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