Baltimore City’s newest City State’s Attorney Ivan J. Bates recently sat down with Baltimore Times Staff Writer Ursula V. Battle to discuss his election victory, tackling violent crime, addressing the needs of older adults, and other topics. A native of El Paso, Texas, Bates is an attorney, former city prosecutor, and managing partner of the law firm Bates and Garcia, LLC. In July, Bates defeated two-term incumbent Marilyn Mosby in the Democratic primary and ran unopposed in the November general election.
Q. How does it feel to be elected as the next State’s Attorney for Baltimore?
A. I was very humbled. I think we’re in a crisis in our city where people really want to see change. That tells me that people heard what I had to say. Every day when I’m out people say, ‘Hey, I trust you, I gave my vote to you. Don’t let me down.’ And I just know, there’s a lot of work to be done. I’m looking forward, I’m very humbled, and I recognize it’s a big job and the citizens have trusted me. So, what that means is that I’ve got to give 1,000% and I’m looking forward to it.
Q. To what/whom do you attribute your victory?
A. There were a number of things that helped. Of course, our Campaign Manager, Nick Machado, worked hard. We also had people on the ground who helped. For instance, a lot of my votes came from the older adult population 65 and older, and I really have to give a lot of support, thank you to Sarah Matthews who is phenomenal. She opened doors that were never going to be opened. And then another great supporter whom I call Aunt Delores helped me a lot on the East Side. Those two helped me a lot with the older adult group. Then, there were a number of people in the community that supported me financially, helped me raise money, and introduced me to individuals that helped me.
And then I had the day-to-day people that I met, who believed in me and volunteered on the campaign who are too numerous to mention. Without a doubt Sheila Dixon was a major, major, major influence that helped me win the race. Mary Miller also put together an ad that helped me tremendously because she believed in me and my candidacy.
I also credit my daughter because every time I wanted to end the campaign or move on or just stop because it was rough, I would look at her and say, ‘No, we have got to keep moving, and we have got to keep pushing, because we are doing it for the children.’
Q. How did your radio platform on WEAA 88.9 FM with David Brown help?
A. David Brown and his show helped me tremendously because it gave me a platform to get my name out there. Carl Stokes and A. Dright Pettit also helped me tremendously. You can’t win a race like this by yourself. My law firm, my law partner, and the associates who work at the firm also helped me tremendously with the campaign, because I had to take a step away from my law practice. They were there and had my back. That was big. It takes a village, and it was a humongous village that ushered me to that victory.
Q. Why did you decide to run for Baltimore City State’s Attorney?
A. I ran four years ago and was unsuccessful and I really focused on my law practice and was doing phenomenal. But there was the crime. I have a little six-year-old daughter and taking her to the park was difficult because as a prosecutor. I had a murder case where a young man chased another man down and killed him in a park playground in the Cherry Hill area. I always thought about that, and then I will see what’s going on with the violence and that scared me a great deal. I asked myself ‘Is my daughter going to have the same opportunities and enjoy the city the way that I have enjoyed it thus far? So, at the end of the day, I just believed in giving my daughter a better life, and if it was important for me to raise my daughter in this city, then I needed to do something. My six-year-old daughter was the main reason that I decided to run.
Q. What are your long-term and short-term goals as Baltimore City State’s Attorney?
A. Short-term, I have to rebuild that office, re-establish that office, and go after violent criminals. If you have an illegal handgun, you’re going to go to jail. I also plan to work with the Mayor to find a way to try to enforce the laws against squeegeeing and removing that. Those are some of the short-term goals. Long-term, is how we deal with some of the low-level offenses and putting services that will help those offenders under one roof. That way, we can deal with those who commit low-level offenses to make sure those individuals get the support and help that they need and that they’re not necessarily sucked into the criminal justice system but are still being held accountable. I don’t agree with the ‘we’re no longer going to prosecute policy.’ I believe we can prosecute and will prosecute. However, where we try to divert or send a person early on is important. I don’t think the prosecutor quote unquote has to take a mallet to everything. Sometimes it needs to be a soft touch, and that’s what I am proposing as well.
One of the other things I want to do is establish an older adults division in the State’s Attorney’s Office, and how we deal with the vulnerable adults and what’s going on with them. That’s really important to me because one of the reasons I moved to Baltimore was my aunt who was an older adult. I took care of her and also my mother who got sick and passed away last year. And then you just look at all the love and care and support the older adults such as Ms. Sarah have given me to be successful. It’s important to establish that division for them.
Q. There is a lot of discussion going on with how to address the squeegee workers. How do you plan to address the squeegee workers?
A. The Mayor has a plan. At the end of the day, I’m about enforcement. My job is the enforcement piece. I spend a lot of time discussing what enforcement looks like with the Mayor. I think the Mayor’s plan will encompass not only the wraparound services to deal with the root causes, but also saying the squeegee workers can’t be there. And that if they don’t get the idea and the message, then I’m here to enforce the law. I think that’s something big and important. It’s the Mayor’s choice. I’m here to enforce the law, and we’ve had those conversations. I feel that we are meeting in the middle.
Q. How do you plan to tackle violence in Baltimore City?
A. I’m going after the root causes, i.e., guns. People are shooting, robbing, and carjacking and they’re using guns…illegal guns. Illegal guns are not properly registered or properly purchased. If you have an illegal handgun, I’m trying to find you, have the police arrest you, and then have my prosecutors convict you and send you to jail. First time offenders… jail for at least a year, and then if you have a felony already, then I’m looking at a time period of more than five years without the possibility of parole to hold you accountable. I’m very focused on holding people with these illegal handguns accountable.
Q. Does the issue of ghost guns present a challenge with getting guns off the street?
A. It does because you can’t necessarily track them. But once a person has that gun on them, we’re going to ask that they go to prison. And these kids carrying long magazines and all that…we definitely are going after them and will hold them accountable as well. Again, anyone with an illegal handgun.
We also have to reestablish that office to hire better prosecutors. When I say better, there are a lot of good prosecutors there. But we need more prosecutors who are better trained, so that they can put better cases together to hold individuals with these guns and doing these violent crimes accountable. Once we’re able to do that, that’s how I believe we can try to really tackle some of the violence we see in the city.