Mortgage fraud trial looms for top prosecutor.
Tenure was marked by high-profile decisions.
With a March trial date quickly approaching in the federal perjury case against Baltimore’s former top prosecutor Marilyn Mosby, a series of rulings Tuesday created significant new hurdles for her defense team, including the possibility of criminal contempt charges against her lead attorney. Mosby left office earlier this month after serving two terms as Baltimore state’s attorney - a tenure defined by several high-profile decisions, including prosecuting the police officers involved in Freddie Gray’s 2015 death and dismissing the charges against Adnan Syed, whose case was featured on the hit podcast “Serial.”
Mosby, who frequently touted her progressive policies, was defeated in a Democratic primary last year after federal prosecutors accused her of lying about experiencing pandemic-related financial hardship in order to make early withdrawals from her retirement account. She used the money to buy two Florida vacation properties.
Her lead defense attorney, A. Scott Bolden, has also violated several court rules in recent months, U.S. District Court Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby said during a pretrial hearing Tuesday. The violations include statements he made to news reporters outside the Baltimore courthouse following a September court appearance, when Bolden used profanity and suggested the prosecution had racial animus. He publicly apologized the following day.
Griggsby also issued a limited gag order in the case Tuesday, largely in response to the statements from Bolden and other missteps from the defense team. She said the main goal is protecting the integrity of the upcoming jury selection process.
“We should be talking about the information in the public record - the facts,” she said.
The gag order forbids lawyers involved in the case from making statements to the media and releasing any information that has “a reasonable likelihood” of creating prejudice or unfairness. In requesting the gag order, prosecutors accused Bolden of spewing falsehoods from the courthouse steps. Bolden said he never intended to break the rules or jeopardize the integrity of the proceeding.
“It came from my heart and not my head,” he told the judge. “Clearly, it was not my finest hour.” Mosby’s trial is scheduled to begin March 27 in Baltimore. She faces two counts each of perjury and mortgage fraud.
Her attorneys had requested the trial be moved to Greenbelt, Maryland, arguing that “pervasive negative pretrial publicity” in Baltimore would make it virtually impossible to seat an impartial jury there.
Griggsby denied the request on Tuesday.
“Notoriety alone is not enough to justify changing a venue,” she said, noting jurors would be chosen from an area that spans half of Maryland, not just Baltimore. However, she didn’t dismiss the concerns entirely, saying defense attorneys could raise them again later on.
Mosby’s defense team suffered another blow when Griggsby announced she’s considering holding Bolden in criminal contempt of court. In addition to his statements from the September press conference, Griggsby said, Bolden violated court rules by disclosing confidential responses from potential jurors in a recent filing. Bolden, who’s based in Washington, D.C., also failed to get the motion signed by an attorney licensed to practice in Maryland, the judge said.
Griggsby gave him a Jan. 31 deadline to argue why he shouldn’t receive criminal contempt sanctions, which can include fines or limited jail time. Bolden could also be pulled from the case. Since leaving elected office, Mosby has declined to share her future plans. Her husband, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby, was present at the hearing Tuesday.
In 2020, Mosby submitted requests for one-time withdrawals of $40,000 and $50,000, respectively, from Baltimore’s deferred compensation plans, according to her indictment. Prosecutors allege Mosby falsely certified that she experienced financial hardship because of the coronavirus, but she actually received her nearly $250,000 salary in 2020.
Her attorneys have argued that COVID-19 had an impact on both financial markets and Mosby’s personal travel and consulting businesses. They’ve accused prosecutors of having racial or political motives for pursuing the case, though Griggsby previously rejected their assertion of vindictive prosecution.
The indictment also alleges that in 2020 and 2021, Mosby made false statements in applications for a $490,500 mortgage to purchase a home near Disney World in Kissimmee, Florida, and a $428,400 mortgage to purchase a condominium in Long Boat Key, Florida. She failed to disclose federal tax debt and misled lenders about her intentions for the property near Disney World, saying it would serve as a second home when she actually was making arrangements to rent it out, according to the indictment.