Ivan Bates said he’s ready to take charge of the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office and deliver on promises to make sweeping changes to a place that’s “truly been decimated and demoralized.”
Bates is taking office after prevailing in a three candidate field in the Democratic primary that included the two-term incumbent, Marilyn Mosby, who is awaiting trial on federal perjury and false mortgage application charges. Bates won, in part, by pledging to make sweeping changes such as rescinding Mosby’s policy against prosecuting low-level, nonviolent offenses.
The fracture that began during the primary extended through the transition. Bates said he did not have adequate access to information to prepare for his new role as state’s attorney. And after being told he could not take office until Tuesday because of the observed New Year’s Day holiday, Bates had new Clerk of Court Xavier Conaway swear him in on Monday in a private ceremony.
Bates, 54, of Locust Point, is set to take part in a public swearing-in ceremony on Tuesday at the Baltimore War Memorial. He founded Bates & Garcia, P.C. in 2006 and previously worked in the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office from 1996-2002.
“I think it’s important for the citizens to hopefully understand that it’s going to take a while,” Bates said. “We have to hire, we have to train, we have to change the culture.”
Here is what you need to know about his plans:
What are his first priorities in office?
Bates said he first plans to focus on addressing violent crime and rebuilding the office.
On Day One, Bates said, he will rescind his predecessor’s non-prosecution policy for low-level offenses including drug possession, trespassing and prostitution.
But he said the effects of that change might not immediately be felt. Bates said it will take time to train assistant state’s attorneys and work with providers in the community.
“It’s not as if they’re going to make arrests the next day,” Bates said. “I think we’ll sit and talk with the mayor’s office, the court, the public defender’s office, the police department, to figure out the best way we can make this new change work for everybody.”
Bates said assistant state’s attorneys will ask for incarceration for people who are caught with illegal guns. That includes seeking the mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison without parole for those with a prior felony conviction.
What changes does he intend to make?
Before court began on Dec. 15, Baltimore Circuit Judge Yvette M. Bryant said Bates had met with Audrey J.S. Carrión, administrative and chief judge of Baltimore Circuit Court, and Melissa M. Phinn, judge-in-charge of the criminal docket, and told them that he did not intend to continue in 2023 with AIM to B’More, a diversionary program for people charged with low-level, drug-related felonies.
The website for AIM to B’More is no longer online.
Bryant said she believed that the state had made a contractual obligation and should at least allow the people who are currently participating in diversion to complete the program.
“It kind of saddens me, because as you can see today, a lot of these people are making substantial progress in their lives,” Bryant said, “and I hate just to leave them in a lurch.”
But Bryant said she had not spoken with Bates about his plans. She said she wasn’t sure if he had conducted his own legal analysis about the current participants or intended to keep the program under a new name.
Bates said he wants to look at the cost of programs to make sure that money is being appropriately spent. He said he does not intend to get rid of everything started under his predecessor but needs to look at what’s working.
A number of prosecutors, he said, are still working from home. “If the community’s in the courtrooms, we need to be in the courtrooms as well,” Bates said.
Assistant State’s Attorney Rita Wisthoff-Ito will return to the Homicide Division, Bates said.
Mosby’s office had accused her of leaking a confidential court document in the case of a 15-year-old who’s charged with first-degree murder in the deadly shooting of a man who confronted a group of squeegee workers with a baseball bat near the Inner Harbor.
Who will be part of his executive team?
Here’s who will be on the executive team:
- Angela Galeano, who was chief of staff to Coppin State University President Anthony Jenkins and previously worked in the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, will serve as chief of staff.
- Catherine Flynn, a defense attorney in Baltimore, will be chief operating officer.
- Tom Donnelly, an appellate attorney in Baltimore, will serve as a deputy state’s attorney, with a focus on addressing violent crime.
- Gregg Solomon-Lucas, an assistant state’s attorney in the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, will be a deputy state’s attorney, with a concentration on specialty courts and low-level offenses. She most recently served as the drug treatment court prosecutor.
- James Bentley II, who recently served as a spokesperson for the Baltimore City Department of Public Works and Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, is joining as communications director.
Among those leaving the office: Becky Feldman, the career public defender who worked in a new unit that Mosby created to review sentences. Feldman played a key role in the exoneration of “Serial” podcast subject Adnan Syed. She is leaving to pursue a new opportunity and was not asked to leave by the new administration.
Who served on his transition team?
Former Baltimore State’s Attorney Gregg Bernstein, who was in office from 2011-2015, and former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, who served from 2007-2010, were co-chairs of the transition team.
Meanwhile, Shonte Eldridge, who has experience in city and state government as well as the private sector, was secretary of the transition team. The group included those such as Mary Miller, a former T. Rowe Price Group Inc. executive who ran for Baltimore mayor in 2020.
In an interview, Bernstein said the transition team was collaborative and started working almost immediately after Bates won the primary.
Bates, he said, is confident in his vision and beliefs and what he wants to accomplish. He wanted help understanding the “nitty gritty” of the office, Bernstein said.
At the same time, Bernstein said, he had told Bates that there is no substitute for taking office as state’s attorney.
Bernstein said the office has its challenges, which include a morale problem and staffing issues. The clear message, he said, that came from speaking with the chiefs of division is that there are a lack of resources.
He said he’s been impressed with the candidates for positions.
“I think he’s got a terrific team,” said Bernstein, who described the members as well-rounded, diverse and experienced in different areas. “I will tell you that I am personally very happy and pleased with the people he’s selected.”
Meanwhile, Bates struck a less diplomatic tone toward the Mosby administration, describing the handoff from the previous administration as a “fiasco.”
“There has been no real transition,” he said. “There’s no cooperation, really, on behalf of the administration.”
Both sides shared emails that showed tensions surrounding the transition, including disagreements about how Bates could contact and interview employees in the office.
Bates said he thinks City Council might have to pass legislation requiring cooperation.
“I’m literally going into the front office blind,” said Bates, sounding exasperated. “I’m not saying you have to be my buddy, but you have a duty to the citizens to give me information so I can continue the work.”
Sheriff Sam Cogen recently made similar accusations that he did not receive help from his predecessor, John Anderson, who served from 1989-2022.
How is he commemorating his inauguration?
Bates is holding a series of events to mark his inauguration, which he described as being about turning the page and moving forward.
Building Bridges for a Better Baltimore Foundation Inc., a social welfare organization, is putting on the events. The Board of Directors is composed of four people, including Bates’ father, Henry, according to incorporation documents.
It was not immediately clear whether the foundation is required to disclose its donors. Bates did not commit to releasing that information.
“I follow the law. I don’t make the law,” he said. “I follow it and enforce the law.”
Here’s a look at some of the events:
- Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023: Ceremonial swearing-in at the Baltimore War Memorial at 11:30 a.m.
- Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023: Swearing-in celebration at M&T Bank Stadium from 6-10 p.m., featuring DJ Quicksilva and a performance from R&B singer-songwriter and producer Joe. Tickets are $50 for people under 25 and $25 for those 65 and older.
- Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023: Town hall at Huber Memorial Church from 6-8 p.m.
—Investigative reporter Justin Fenton contributing reporting to this article.