BALTIMORE— Baltimore’s new attorney general, Ivan Bates, will try a man accused of murderat the city’s Journal and Intake center.
Bates announced on Friday that he will prosecute the defendant who is accused of strangling his deaf friend in prison while awaiting trial in another murder case last year.
Gordon Staron Jr., 34, of Harford County, has been charged with first-degree murder after prosecutors accused him. Javarick Gantt’s friend was killed. Gantt was found dead in his cell at Central Booking on October 9, 2022, the Baltimore Banner reported.
Staron is already in jail for stabbing a man in the 1400 block of East Monument Street at a bus stop.
Assistant State Attorney Tonya LaPolla said the state intends to seek life without the possibility of parole.
Bates will litigate the case—which raises important questions about the city’s jail system and its judicial model—along with the city’s former homicide attorney Tonya LaPolla.
“The same job that he does, I’m going to sit there and do it. It’s the same preparation, I’m going to be there to do it,” Bates said. “To me, it has to start at the top. You have lawyers who go to court every week on murder cases. We need help.”
Staron has been locked up since September after he was arrested in the stabbing of Keith Bell, 63, near a Baltimore bus stop. Prison officials have declined to answer questions about why Staron stayed with Gantt, a disabled man facing lesser charges.
“Here, you have a suspect who is accused of committing two murders, one of an elderly person and the other of an elderly person,” Bates said, in not explaining why he made the case.
Bates held a press conference on Friday to announce that he had entered the case that morning – hoping to demonstrate his commitment to curbing violence in Baltimore, which has recently been recorded. more than 300 annual murders for the eighth year.
“I think it’s important for the lawyers in this office to know that I see them on the front lines. And, I’m here to jump forward if I can,” he said. of Bates. “It’s not just your back, I’m standing by your side as we fight crime together.”
He said his office plans to seek life without parole on both counts of murder against Staron.
Bateswho took office at the beginning of this month, sa elected last year after defeating then-Marilyn Mosby in the Democratic primary. Recently a top lawyer, Bates also worked as a city attorney before running for state attorney.
“I want people to know that the reason I entered my appearance is because, at the end of the day, we have to do different things in Baltimore City,” he said. “I want the criminal group to know that I’m really on the other side, and I’m here to answer you.”
He pledged to roll back some of Mosby’s policies, including his decision not to prosecute certain felonies and misdemeanors. During his campaign, Bates pledged to use low-level crimes like drug possession and prostitution to scare people away from addiction treatment and other services. He also admitted to spending more time in the courtroom than Mosby, prosecuting at least one case a year.
Gantt, 34, has been in jail since July but his cases have dragged through the old court system. His charges stemmed from a domestic dispute in 2019 in which no one was seriously injured. But because he mostly missed the court dates and check-in, he was ordered to be held without bail and he was detained by waiting for the end date of the month of October.
Standing over 5 feet tall and weighing about 105 pounds, Gantt was often the target of buyers. Sign language was his first language; his reading and writing skills were limited. In the weeks before his death, loved ones said he expressed safety concerns about his roommate, saying he preferred to live alone.
The door of their cell was locked for nearly 12 hours, but Gantt was found dead at around 6 am, according to court records.
“Witnesses … reported hearing inmate Gantt making noise and banging on his cell door” during the night, according to charging documents. The administration has not publicly disclosed any potential proceeds.
A spokeswoman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Emergency Services said the department had launched an administrative investigation into Gantt’s death. A DPSCS spokesperson said the administration’s review “remains open and active.”
Bates acknowledged specific issues that could be related to the case, but declined to elaborate, saying his office is focused on criminal investigation.
Staron’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment Friday, but he recently requested a psychiatric evaluation to determine if Staron is mentally competent to participate in his defense, the statement said. from lawyers. Staron is scheduled to appear in court again in April.
He was identified as a suspect in the bus crash, when he was seen fleeing the scene of a pick-up truck registered to his family When authorities arrived at the family’s home outside Baltimore to investigate, Staron came out “armed with a handgun and a pocket knife,” according to charging documents.
He was later charged with first degree murder in the case. A few weeks later, he received another first-degree murder charge in Gantt’s death.
Bates, who has not been charged with murder since 2001, said it was “like riding a bike.”
“I’m a trial lawyer, first and foremost,” he said. “I think it’s important for the attorneys in this office to know … I’m here to jump on the front lines if I can.”
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Paul Gessler contributed to this story.