Thiru Vignarajah

Thiru Vignarajah, hoping to make waves in Baltimore, is vying for the top prosecutor seat in the city. The Sri Lankan attorney has held some of law’s most coveted positions: president of the Harvard Law Review, constitutional law professor, federal prosecutor, partner at a global law firm and Deputy Attorney General of Maryland. (thiruforbaltimore.com photo)

Thiru Vignarajah, a Sri Lankan American who previously served as deputy attorney general of Maryland, has put his hat into the Baltimore City State's Attorney race.

Vignarajah has staked his candidacy on a pair of ambitious promises: bring Baltimore’s record murder rates to “record lows at record speed” and create the “most transparent, progressive prosecutor’s office in American history,” according to his campaign site.

If elected, Vignarajah would become the country’s first South Asian American state’s attorney.

Vignarajah, 40, is the son of Sri Lankan immigrants. At just 3, he and his family fled Sri Lanka just as the country descended into a bloody and protracted civil war, according to a Forbes report.

His parents came to the United States with no jobs, squeezed the family into a cramped basement apartment in West Baltimore and spent winter weekends at the local library to keep warm, the report said.

Both his parents are retired Baltimore City high school teachers. Vignarajah’s father was the oldest teacher in Maryland when he retired this past summer at the age of 80. His mother earned her doctorate at 62, finishing her teaching career at Morgan State, one of Maryland’s historically black colleges, Forbes noted.

After college at Yale, Vignarajah held some of law’s most coveted positions: president of the Harvard Law Review, constitutional law professor, federal prosecutor, partner at a global law firm and Deputy Attorney General of Maryland.

Like his fellow South Asian counterpart in New York, Indian American Preet Bharara, Vignarajah amassed a distinguished record as a federal prosecutor, the publication said.

He tried and convicted the architect of a string of violent robberies that ended in the murder of a prominent Greek businessman. As a city prosecutor, he brought to justice a wealthy executive who set his mistress’s rowhome on fire while she and her 5-year-old son slept inside, and prosecuted gang members responsible for a quadruple shooting that killed a 12-year-old boy, it said.

As Deputy Attorney General, Vignarajah was the lead author on a report cited by the Supreme Court in its landmark decision recognizing same-sex marriage. He has made the case on CNN against Trump’s Muslim ban. He has also authored a legal challenge to deporting "Dreamers" and has pledged he will “not lift one finger” to further the “falsehood that immigrants are driving crime in Baltimore,” the report went on.

He has condemned policies of mass incarceration and zero tolerance and rejected popular calls for more mandatory minimum sentences, it said, adding that Vignarajah is confident he can make a real difference as Baltimore City State’s Attorney.

“Yesterday’s strategies of zero tolerance and mass incarceration have failed us. The fate of Baltimore depends on us finding a smarter, fairer way forward. If we do this right, Baltimore could be the blueprint for every great city whose promise remains out of reach because of crime,” he told Forbes.

A first-time candidate, Vignarajah is running against the incumbent, Marilyn Mosby. The election is on June 26, 2018.

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