Local defense attorney kicks off campaign for top prosecutor

Posted at 6:41 AM, Aug 28, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-28 19:16:37-04

Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby will have a high-profile challenger running to try to unseat her in next year’s democratic primary.

Attorney Ivan Bates launched his campaign over the weekend, saying “disarray” in the State’s Attorney’s office is hindering the fight against crime in Baltimore City.  So far there have been 230 murders in the city in 2017.

Bates worked as a prosecutor in the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s office from 1996 to 2002, and has been a defense attorney since then.

“I'm in court almost every day for the past 22 years,” Bates said. “You know the system inside and out. I've seen it from the prosecutor point of view and I've seen it from the defense attorney point of view.”

Bates announced the start of his campaign Saturday in Park Heights, in front of the home of Kendal Fenwick, who was shot and killed in 2015.

RELATED: Baltimore state's attorney race kicks off with Ivan Bates campaign launch

Fenwick, a father of three, had been building a fence in his yard to try and keep drug dealers away from his children.

Police have a suspect in custody in connection with Fenwick’s murder – Devante Brim. Bates said at the time of the shooting, Brim was already facing a separate charge of attempted murder– but was not in jail, Bates said, because Mosby’s office mishandled the case.

See also: Honoring Kendal Fenwisk, the man who died protecting his kids

Kevin Fenwick, the father of Kendal Fenwick, said he would be supporting Bates in the election.

“If the current state’s attorney would have done her job, my son may still be living today,” Fenwick said.

“When I was a homicide prosecutor I had the opportunity to really just know what it was like to go and look at a victim's family and see the hurt and pain in their eyes and when you see the hurt and pain in their eyes, you know as a homicide prosecutor, they need you to give them justice,” Bates said.

He also said as a defense attorney he has represented clients who are guilty of crimes in the city.

“Most of my clients are African-American that live in disenfranchised portions of the city,” he said.  “So I get to see what it really means when nobody wants to listen to them. Nobody believes what they have to say.  Very often when you stand and you look at the case you spend time and you go over it with your client, a lot of times when they're guilty you're able to sit down and explain to them why they'll be found guilty and you help them to go ahead and take a plea.”

Four days after riots broke out in Baltimore City in reaction to the death of Freddie Gray in police custody, Mosby announced that six Baltimore City police officers would be charged with crimes related to his death.

Bates was chosen to represent one of those officers, Sgt. Alicia White.  After trials for three of the officers failed to yield any convictions, Mosby dropped the charges against the other officers, including Sgt. White.

RELATED: Sgt. Alicia White, lawyer outline her case

Bates says he believes Mosby should have taken time to do a more thorough investigation, before deciding whether to charge the officers.

“You have to have a thorough investigation,” he said.  “You cannot be in disarray.  Because remember, you don't want the victim’s family to go through that process again. You owe it to the citizens to investigate and to do it right.”

See also: Officer charged in Freddie Gray case breaks silence

Crime has spiked in Baltimore City since the riots and the charges leveled against the six officers.

Now, a new conflict has emerged between the state’s attorney’s office and the police department – three recent cases where police body-worn cameras caught video of officers appearing to recreate the discovery of drugs.

Mosby dropped criminal charges against the suspects in those cases – and also against other suspects who had been charged by those same officers. In all, more than 100 cases involving those officers have been dropped. A mistake, according to Baltimore City Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.

“The decision to drop this particular case, and to drop other cases, was a bad call," Davis said. "I don't think that this decision helps the crime fight in any way shape or form.”

RELATED: Baltimore Police release body camera footage from third 'questionable' incident

But Mosby argued that the re-enactments would create doubt in the minds of judges and jurors.

Bates said he would not have dropped all of the cases related to the officers in question.

“When you sit down and look at the body camera footage, one of the things you have to sit down and do is say, 'OK, maybe there's an issue. Can you prove the case with secondary evidence?' And it's a case by case basis, and that's what you must do,” he said.

He also said he’s committed to improving the relationship between the state’s attorney’s office and the police department.

“They have to work together, because until the police and the state's attorney's office work together, this crime rate will never be solved,” Bates said.

Bates said he believes the city is at a “crisis” level in terms of crime. One reason, he says, is that many experienced prosecutors have left the state’s attorney’s office, leaving behind younger, less experienced attorneys to handle cases, including violent felony crimes.

Bates said believes some of the prosecutors who have left would return if he is elected.

“They've expressed, ‘Hey, I miss my job, I love my job. I want to be there for the people I want to come back and I would work with you.’”

He’s also calling for improved drug and mental health treatment for non-violent offenders, and job training for people who have served their sentences and are returning to the community

“I'm going to be tough but I'm going to be compassionate,” Bates said.

Bates and Mosby are both Democrats; the Democratic primary election is scheduled for June 26, 2017. There are other local attorneys who are also reportedly considering getting into the race.