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Attorney Ivan Bates joins race for Baltimore State’s Attorney, citing need to address city’s violence

Defense attorney Ivan Bates announced he will run for Baltimore State’s Attorney in the June Democratic primary election, bringing his second try for the job of the city’s top prosecutor.

Bates, 53, of Locust Point, founded and runs the downtown law firm of Bates & Garcia, P.C., and in recent years has represented people arrested by rogue officers of the Gun Trace Task Force. Bates sought to unseat Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby in the 2018 Democratic primary and finished second in the three-way race with 28% of the vote.

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“Baltimore now is looking for new leadership because leadership has failed us. We’re approaching 300 murders,” he said before the city reached the grim homicide milestone Wednesday. “You have an individual who was murdered in church. You have individuals who are now more brazen, more violent. It’s not about a popularity contest. It’s about who is the best lawyer for the job.”

His announcement comes two months after defense attorney Roya Hanna launched her campaign for the Democratic primary. Mosby, who’s closing out her second term in office, has not publicly announced whether she will seek re-election but her campaign has planned a fundraiser Thursday evening at Baltimore Soundstage.

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Attorney Ivan Bates is running for Baltimore State’s Attorney in the June Democratic primary election, his second attempt at the office.
Attorney Ivan Bates is running for Baltimore State’s Attorney in the June Democratic primary election, his second attempt at the office. (Amy Davis / Baltimore Sun)

Bates touted his varied experience, from his years in the U.S. Army to attending Howard University on the GI Bill, to law school at William & Mary, then legal work in Los Angeles before moving to Baltimore in 1995. He served six years as an assistant state’s attorney in the administration of Patricia Jessamy before heading into private practice. He opened his own firm in 2006.

Bates said he was content with steering his firm through the coronavirus pandemic and has expanded his practice in recent years to handle state and federal cases across the country, but he continued to hear support from the community.

“I’d walk down the street and people would stop me and say, ‘I’d hope you run,’” he said. “The people are asking me more than anything.”

Bates said he wants to bring innovation to the office, such as software programs that can add subtitles to police body camera videos so prosecutors no longer waste hours transcribing the footage. He also spoke of rolling back Mosby’s policies of ceasing to prosecute nonviolent crimes such as drug possession and prostitution.

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Bates said that doesn’t mean he wants to lock people up for crimes of poverty or addiction, but he believes a blanket policy emboldens criminals.

“When I tell my daughter what I’m not going to do, she wants to push the limits of what she can get away with,” he said. “You have to look at it as a case-by-case basis. Some people shouldn’t be prosecuted, but when it comes to possession cases we need to steer them to drug treatment.”

He also noted the street violence that continues unabated in the city. Baltimore’s on pace to exceed 300 homicides for a seventh straight year.

“The current state’s attorney has had seven, almost eight years, to fix it,” he said. “It’s only gotten worse.”

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