Top city prosecutor, O'Malley aide join AG's office

Attorney General-elect Frosh taps O'Malley's legal advisor, Baltimore prosecutor as deputies

Attorney General-elect Brian Frosh named his two top deputies Tuesday, tapping Gov. Martin O'Malley's chief legal adviser and a city prosecutor who coordinated major investigations.

Elizabeth Harris, O'Malley's chief legal counsel since 2008, will oversee civil and contract litigation, while Thiru Vignarajah, head of the city prosecutor's office's Major Investigations Unit, will have oversight on criminal enforcement and consumer protection.

"I am thrilled that Elizabeth and Thiru have agreed to join the Office of the Attorney General," Frosh said in a news release. "Their skill, experience and commitment to public service will serve Maryland well."

Prior to joining the Baltimore State's Attorney's Office in 2010, Vignarajah, 38, was a federal prosecutor in Maryland and clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer after graduation from Harvard Law, where he was president of the Harvard Law Review.

State's Attorney Gregg Bernstein recruited Vignarajah to run his newly-formed Major Investigations Unit, which conducted wiretap investigations and prosecuted gangs.

Some of the biggest busts in recent years were run through his unit, including the indictment of nearly 50 reputed Black Guerrilla Family gang members in late 2013. The majority of those charged in the case are still pending trial.

The unit also charged and convicted the killers of 12-year-old Sean Johnson, who was shot on a porch in Darley Park, solved the city's oldest cold case murder through DNA, and most recently, broke up a dogfighting ring.

In a statement, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts called Vignarajah a "once-in-a-generation lawyer and leader" and said his unit took on the "toughest cases against the city's worst criminals."

Vignarajah is the latest to leave the city State's Attorney's Office, which is transitioning with the election of Marilyn Mosby. Police integrity prosecutor Shelly Glenn joined the U.S. Attorney's Office in Maryland, and chief of staff Paul Pineau who joined Johns Hopkins University. One of Bernstein's deputy prosecutors, George J. Hazel, was named a U.S. District Judge by President Barack Obama in 2013.

Mosby has not yet announced her leadership team.

As chief legal counsel to O'Malley, Harris, 41, advised the governor on legal matters and worked as a liaison to the judiciary and prepared executive orders. She previously worked with the Baltimore City Law Department and clerked in the Maryland Court of Appeals.

"Liz will be a tremendous addition to the Attorney General's office as Chief Deputy," O'Malley said in a statement. "She is an outstanding lawyer with sound judgment and I know that she will continue to serve the State of Maryland well."

jfenton@baltsun.com

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