By Sean Yoes
AFRO Baltimore Editor
syoes@afro.com

Erricka Bridgeford, leader of the Baltimore Ceasefire Movement is one of the smartest and most insightful people I know.

And she can be incredibly slick with the mouth, as most of us from West Baltimore tend to be.

So, after last weekend’s mayoral forum hosted by the Baltimore Urban League when she referred to one of the candidates as “Greenmount,” in a Facebook post most of us knew exactly who she was talking about.

“Greenmount kept using words like, “trust,” and “transparency,” and I’m amazed that he kept saying that stuff as if we didn’t just see him asking BPD to turn off body cams. In case you were wondering, yes, he still thinks we’re stupid,”Bridgeford wrote.

Sean Yoes

But, in case you were still wondering just who Bridgeford was talking about, “Greenmount” is the Notorious VIG, Thiru Vignarajah, former Deputy Attorney General of Maryland, former prosecutor, former candidate for Baltimore City State’s Attorney and now candidate for Mayor of Baltimore.

And yes, he still thinks we’re stupid.

Recently, bodycam footage from a Baltimore Police Department (BPD) officer’s traffic stop of Vignarajah back in September has gone viral via Baltimore social media. And thanks to exhaustive reporting by freelance investigative journalist Justine Barron on Vignarajah’s encounter with BPD, we are able to glimpse the glib mayoral candidate’s psyche and his political motivations.

Officer Smith stopped Vignarajah on Sept. 24, around 1 a.m., in the 2400 block of
Greenmount Ave., allegedly because the mayoral candidate was driving with his headlights off. During the officer’s investigation he also discovered Vignarajah was driving with a suspended registration because he allegedly failed to comply with a repair order for his vehicle.

When Smith approached his car, the dialogue escalated quickly between the two; initially Vignarajah played cute about the details that led to the suspended tags.

But, the mayoral candidate, apparently favored in the crowded mayor’s race by Baltimore’s FOP, really got in a snit when he argued he only turned his lights off when he was actually pulled over.

“We are 600 patrol officers down and that’s what you’re doing in Greenmount?” Vignarajah said, incredulity dripping from his lips.

However, the question for many is what was Vignarajah doing “in Greenmount,” allegedly with his headlights off at 1 a.m., with a woman in his car?

“…Giving her a tour, showing her part of the cases where I prosecuted the gang that dominated this area,” explained Vignarajah to Smith, although the officer never asked about the woman in his front seat. Moments later, Vignarajah’s female companion blurted something to the officer, then abruptly exited the car without saying goodbye to the former prosecutor. Vignarajah never even glanced her way as the woman plunged into the night at the corner of 25th and Greenmount.

The lack of interaction between the two did not seem indicative of a relationship between two “professional colleagues” who had allegedly had a late dinner together the same night, according to other media reports.

Just prior to the female hopping out of his vehicle, Smith asked Vignarajah if he was going to get the car towed, because the officer was obligated to take his tags.

“I don’t want to be up for another hour, is my problem,” Vignarajah said dismissively to Smith, before mumbling, “This is insane.”

Indeed. It is insane to think you can drive down Greenmount at 1 a.m., with your lights off, on suspended tags and when you get pulled over seemingly insist upon driving away with impunity, instead of getting your car towed, no questions asked.

But, apparently that is precisely what happened with Vignarajah, arguably the mayoral candidate most reliant on a policy platform of “law and order.” He is certainly the candidate who leans most heavily on his reputation as a prosecutor, specifically his work against the Black Guerilla Family in 2013. However, his actual record against the BGF gang seems more dubious than he has claimed over the years.

“Of the 48 defendants, 11 were charged with a violent crime, and only three of those resulted in violent crime convictions,” reported Barron in her blog, “The Suiter Files,” on Jan. 20.

“Almost half of the defendants pleaded guilty to criminal gang involvement charges; only four pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges. Defendants who pleaded guilty to those charges received, on average, two years in prison, mostly for time served. Charges were dropped entirely for 14 of the defendants.”

Perhaps the most galling vignette of the Notorious VIG’s episode with BPD on Greenmount happened after two sergeants arrived at the traffic stop and one of them turned off their body cam at Vignarajah’s request. Both also seemingly went beyond the call of duty searching for legal loopholes to allow him to drive home on suspended tags.

Bridgeford gave her cogent assessment of Vignarajah in a Facebook post on Jan. 24.

“He is one of the most entitled people I’ve ever met. And he really thinks that his tricks are slick, when in reality you can see what he’s up to a mile away,” she wrote.

“He is so much in his own reality that he does not notice the impact he’s having on people in a given moment.”

Facts.

Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor