Baltimore state’s attorney candidate Ivan Bates under fire for claims he never lost a murder case

Baltimore state’s attorney candidate Ivan Bates is under attack from his two rivals over his repeated claim that he never lost a murder case as a city prosecutor.

Incumbent State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby issued a statement Monday saying Bates “blatantly misrepresents his record.”

The other candidate, Thiru Vignarajah, also released a list of cases Monday that he said proves “Bates’ failure as a prosecutor” because some of the data shows he won no murder convictions as lead prosecutor.

Bates, who worked as an assistant state’s attorney in Baltimore from July 1996 to June 2002, prosecuted homicide cases in his last two years in the office before becoming a criminal defense attorney. He has said that he helped to successfully prosecute between 15 and 20 murder cases.

Bates has used his record as a prosecutor to tout himself as the most experienced of the three Democrats competing in the June 26 Democratic primary election and to set himself apart from Mosby, who has never prosecuted homicide cases.

“I was in homicide,” Bates said. “She never was.”

Vignarajah’s campaign presented data Monday from online court records. According to Vignarajah, Bates prosecuted eight murders and dropped five of them. One was remanded to juvenile court, another defendant struck a plea deal for 10 years after Bates left the office, and another was acquitted after Bates left.

Bates said Vignarajah’s team missed key cases he prosecuted.

Bates provided two case files that he said support his claim. In one of the court records, Bates is listed among a team of prosecutors who won a murder conviction in 2002 against Lynelle Whiting of East Baltimore. Whiting was charged in the homicide of William Jerome Moore Jr., who was beaten to death in his East Baltimore home in 2001.

Bates provided court records that list him as a prosecutor in the case against Whiting. According to court records, Whiting was found guilty of murder and sentenced to life in prison in 2002. He remains held in the state prison in Western Maryland.

“That man is doing life plus 25,” Bates said.

Retired homicide detective Kevin Turner vouched for Bates, saying he worked with him on the trial.

“He did great,” Turner said. “That was when the Police Department worked with the state’s attorney’s office.”

In another case provided by Bates, he is listed among the prosecutors who convicted Gregory Everett in 2002.

The criticism Bates faces for his claim that he never lost a homicide case centers around different perspectives on cases that are dropped.

Bates acknowledged he dropped two murder cases after investigating and discovering a defendant was not the killer. He doesn’t count those as losses when he claims he has an “undefeated” record in homicides.

“We wanted the trigger puller,” Bates said. “If you pull the trigger, you were found guilty.”

But Vignarajah said he considers dropped cases to be losses.

“Prosecutors are supposed to investigate before they indict, not after,” Vignarajah said. “The fact that Mr. Bates dropped murder cases, carjacking cases, and other serious felony cases after indicting is very troubling.”

But it’s that same accounting of dismissed cases that Mosby has relied upon to claim a conviction rate of 92 percent even while dropping more than one-third of her cases. She said repeated police corruption scandals have caused her office to drop more cases than the previous administration.

“Mr. Bates has consistently touted an undefeated record,” Mosby’s campaign said in a statement. “We have learned that his experience while in the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office has been grossly exaggerated and woefully misrepresented. The truth is that Mr. Bates has never won a conviction in a murder trial and has limited prosecutorial trial experience.”

That’s the same line of attack that Bates has aimed at Mosby — a former assistant state’s attorney who left to work as an insurance attorney before winning the state’s attorney election in 2014.

Vignarajah, a former deputy attorney general for Maryland, said he won more than a dozen murder convictions as a city and federal prosecutor.

Bates said the joint attack by Mosby and Vignarajah shows that the two are conspiring to ensure Mosby’s re-election.

“It shows what we all thought is that they’re in this together and this is a concerted effort,” Bates said. “They both have blatantly misrepresented the facts when they knew the truth otherwise.

“It clearly shows why the criminal justice system is in such disarray in Baltimore,” he added.

Bates, 49, a longtime defense attorney, has called Mosby an ineffective crime fighter. He has campaigned on a strategy to aggressively prosecute violent criminals while providing drug and mental health treatment to nonviolent offenders.

Vignarajah, 41, has campaigned as a reformer, saying he would stop prosecuting addicts for petty crimes, support immigrants and oppose mandatory minimum sentences. He said he has a plan to cut homicides in half within three years.

Both challengers have a tough battle in trying to defeat Mosby.

She became one of the nation’s youngest city prosecutors when she won a stunning victory in 2014 at age 34. She drew national attention the following spring when she criminally charged six Baltimore police officers in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray. None were convicted.

The three are the only candidates in the race, so it's likely the Democratic primary will decide the winner

Baltimore Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this article.

tprudente@baltsun.com

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