Race heats up dur­ing joint ra­dio ap­pear­ance

Chal­lengers Vig­nara­jah and Bates at­tack each other and Mosby, who hits back

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND - By Tim Pru­dente tpru­dente@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/tim_pru­dente

The three can­di­dates for Bal­ti­more state’s at­tor­ney be­gan their sec­ond de­bate Wed­nes­day with calm, mea­sured com­ments on their hum­ble up­bring­ings, com­mu­nity roots and plans for a safer city.

But it didn’t take long for the three Democrats to pivot from ci­vil­ity to hos­til­ity dur­ing their hour­long de­bate on Larry Young’s morn­ing ra­dio show.

“Mrs. Mosby’s record is ter­ri­ble,” said Thiru Vig­nara­jah, a for­mer city prose­cu­tor and Mary­land deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral. “Mr. Bates’ record is even worse.”

Long­time de­fense at­tor­ney Ivan Bates shot back.

“I don’t think he knows the dif­fer­ence be­tween North Av­enue and North­ern Park­way,” said Bates, also a for­mer city prose­cu­tor. “He’s only in this race to stop me from win­ning.”

State’s At­tor­ney Mar­i­lyn J. Mosby said city vot­ers can’t trust ei­ther Bates or Vig­nara­jah. The chal­lengers are seek­ing to un­seat her in the June 26 Demo­cratic pri­mary elec­tion. Early vot­ing starts to­day.

Vig­nara­jah wants to win at all costs, Mosby said. She said Bates “put out so much mis­in­for­ma­tion that it’s un­fair for the vot­ers.”

Their meet­ing was billed as a fo­rum, but it be­came an open de­bate as the three can­di­dates sniped at one an­other over their records. Con­flict in the high-pro­file race has es­ca­lated as the pri­mary elec­tion draws near, ten­sion that Young noted dur­ing the show.

“This is my ninth one in 20 years,” Young said. “I’ve never had one as dis­agree­able.”

The race has been con­sumed in re­cent days with Mosby and Vig­nara­jah at­tack­ing Bates over his claim of be­ing “un­de­feated” on mur­der cases. It’s a cor­ner­stone of Bates’ cam­paign, but both Mosby and Vig­nara­jah say it’s un­true.

Bates said he was in­volved in 12 to 15 mur­der cases as a city prose­cu­tor from1996 to 2002. Af­ter last week’s de­bate, he gave a higher range — 15 to 20 cases — but now says he mis­spoke.

When declar­ing him­self un­de­feated, Bates said he isn’t count­ing cases in­volv­ing charges of at­tempted mur­der and con­spir­acy to com­mit mur­der. He also isn’t count­ing cases in which he dropped the charges.

“Do you think you mis­char­ac­ter­ized your record as un­de­feated?” Young asked him.

“No, I haven’t,” Bates said. “I’m very happy with my record.”

Mosby has cam­paigned largely on her record of a 92 per­cent con­vic­tion rate. She also says she’s the only can­di­date rooted in the com­mu­nity. She ac­cuses her chal­lengers of be­ing new­com­ers to the city.

She also high­lights her ef­forts to im­prove po­lice ac­count­abil­ity by bring­ing charges against six of­fi­cers in the ar­rest and death of Fred­die Gray.

The 25-year-old Bal­ti­more man died af­ter suf­fer­ing se­vere in­juries in a po­lice van. None of the of­fi­cers were con­victed.

Mosby was asked Wed­nes­day if she would have han­dled the cases against the of­fi­cers dif­fer­ently.

“I would not,” she said. “Al­though those in­di­vid­ual of­fi­cers weren’t held crim­i­nally re­spon­si­ble … that ex­po­sure led to re­forms.”

She said her pros­e­cu­tion shook loose long-stalled plans to de­ploy po­lice body cam­eras. Be­cause she pros­e­cuted the of­fi­cers, she said, po­lice are now re­quired to se­cure all pris­on­ers in seat belts.

“You wouldn’t do any­thing dif­fer­ently?” Bates said. “You lost. So you didn’t learn from a loss?”

Vig­nara­jah said Gray’s death pre­sented an op­por­tu­nity to showthe na­tion how­to­build a solid pros­e­cu­tion.

“Mosby wasn’t ready then, and she isn’t — if she hasn’t learned from her mis­takes — ready now,” he said.

Mosby, 38, is run­ning for a sec­ond four-year term as Bal­ti­more’s top prose­cu­tor. She rose to na­tional promi­nence dur­ing the Gray case three years ago, and has be­come a fre­quent tar­get of crit­i­cism from Bal­ti­more po­lice.

Bates, 49, a for­mer prose­cu­tor and Army vet­eran, is se­nior part­ner of the Bates & Gar­cia law firm.

Vig­nara­jah, 41, is a for­mer Mary­land deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral who also worked in the state’s at­tor­ney’s of­fice un­der Mosby’s pre­de­ces­sor, Gregg L. Bernstein.

Vig­nara­jah says he has a plan to cut the city’s mur­der rate by one-third. He wants all youths ac­cused of crimes to be­gin in ju­ve­nile court. He also wants to as­sign pros­e­cu­tors to high schools to steer teens away from crime.

Bates says he is the only prose­cu­tor proven to con­vict mur­der­ers and that Mosby’s of­fice has failed to hold up its role in fight­ing crime by keep­ing crim­i­nals be­hind bars.

Mosby says her of­fice has worked un­daunted through four po­lice com­mis­sion­ers, Gray’s death and un­prece­dented po­lice cor­rup­tion. So far this year, she says, her felony con­vic­tion rate has inched up to 95 per­cent.

“My of­fice has epit­o­mized re­siliency in the face of chaos,” she says.

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