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Mosby's newfound popularity made her a sought-after national speaker in 2015

Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby's popularity translated to $12,000 worth of trips to speak at events

Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby's newfound popularity last year translated into $12,000 worth of free travel to speak at events around the country, as well as dozens of awards and other gifts, according to her ethics form filed with the state.

After indicting six police officers in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, Mosby became a sought-after convention speaker and traveled out of state about once a month, in addition to attending a slew of local events, according to records and her office.

Event organizers covered Mosby's travel costs and in some cases those of her two-member security detail. The most expensive trip was to a women's philanthropic network conference in New Orleans valued at more than $3,900. Another trip, to speak to a conference in Savannah, Ga., of African-American union members, is listed at $3,125.

"Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby, we are so proud of you," the emcee at the Georgia event announced as she entered the room, according to its website.

Mosby, whose annual salary is $240,000, said in written responses to questions that she accepted the travel as gifts because she "does not believe that the taxpayers of Baltimore City should foot the bill for speaking engagements that require out-of-state travel."

Taxpayers did pay for about $3,100 worth of travel for her security detail when event organizers did not cover it.

Maryland ethics laws impose restrictions on soliciting gifts or receiving them from those who pose a potential conflict of interest.

Mosby's office said "conflicts can be subjective" and she felt she should disclose as much as possible. Through a spokesperson, Mosby also noted her out-of-state travel took place most often on weekends or one day during the week.

Jennifer Bevan-Dangel of the watchdog group Common Cause Maryland said Mosby appeared to be going above and beyond what was necessary in disclosing the trips.

"This type of transparency is really important for the residents of the city to know where she's been going, what she's been doing, and who's paying for it," Bevan-Dangel said.

But the trips also raise questions about how Mosby spends her time, she said. "Is the purpose of the trip furthering her role as a representative of Baltimore City, advancing a very legitimate discussion around police brutality and racial justice … or is this more for personal advancement, and at what level should she be staying back and focusing on prosecutions?"

Charles Ellison, a veteran political analyst and host on radio station WEAA, said Mosby was a rising star before the charges in the Gray case thrust her into the national spotlight and likely is contemplating her next political move. Ellison said he believes Mosby will have to continue to strike a balance between being visible and not appearing overly ambitious.

"People, rightfully so, should question how you are able to manage all of these different celebrity and high-profile political activities," Ellison said. "She's a tremendous political force, but is going to have to learn how to manage that better optically so folks aren't constantly questioning her."

Beyond travel, Mosby reported receiving more than 40 other gifts — much of them plaques and award certificates.

She reported receiving a pantsuit and cosmetics valued at $650 while collecting a "woman of the year" award at the "Ubiquitous Hair & Health Trade Show" beauty expo in Washington; a wall painting from the Tuskegee University National Alumni Association; a pearl necklace, and a tablet. She also listed gift cards of $25 and $50 given to her by two Baltimore public schools.

Mosby "is a community game-changer," said Germaine Leftridge, who at the beauty expo presented Mosby with a trophy that featured a Swarovski crystal kaleidoscope. "She made a difference, she made a stand, whether it was popular or not. … We loved her like the queen she is."

Mosby's two immediate predecessors — Gregg L. Bernstein, whom Mosby defeated in the 2014 Democratic primary, and Patricia C. Jessamy, Bernstein's predecessor — did not report similar travel.

Bernstein reported one gift during his four-year tenure: $250 in merchandise from Under Armour founder Kevin Plank in 2013.

Jessamy reported three gifts during her final four-year term that ended with her defeat in 2010, including a $60 crystal vase and a $250 ticket to a House of Ruth luncheon.

Mosby, a former assistant state's attorney who left to work as an insurance attorney and is married to City Councilman Nick Mosby, became the youngest top prosecutor in a major city when she defeated Bernstein.

Just a few months into her tenure, her office's decision to charge the officers has been both celebrated as a rare move to curb police brutality and condemned as overzealous.

Mosby's increased profile quickly became apparent with national media coverage and appearances on stage at a Prince concert and a feature in Vogue magazine.

The Baltimore Sun reviewed Mosby's ethics form to determine the cost of trips she disclosed as gifts. It also reviewed her expense reports for travel, obtained through the Public Information Act, which showed security and other costs charged to taxpayers.

Many of the events have been documented through her social media accounts or the accounts and websites of the groups that hosted her. She often speaks about being underestimated in her challenge to Bernstein and about the need to reform the criminal justice system and address disparities.

Through a spokesperson, Mosby said she had 50 local speaking engagements and participated in more than 90 community events in 2015. She took fewer than 10 out-of-state trips and declined more than 30 others.

In June, she traveled to Chicago to give the keynote speech to the Cook County Bar Association, listing the value of the trip at $1,386.

The next month, she accepted a $490 trip to Philadelphia to speak at the NAACP's national convention. Two weeks later, she went to Los Angeles for the National Bar Association's Young Lawyers conference, a gift valued at $1,151. Two members of her security detail accompanied her, with the city covering their airfare, lodging and meals at a cost of $2,640.

She visited the Savannah conference of the A. Philip Randolph Institute in August, a trip valued at $3,125.

The next month saw a $1,285 trip to Atlanta for the National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Pre-Law Summit & Law Expo. She billed the city for $34 in meals for her security detail.

In October, she made a $352 visit to her alma mater, Boston College Law School, which was covered by the school, while $226 for security expenses were billed to Baltimore. That same weekend she received an award, travel and lodging valued at $560 for appearing at the Massachusetts Association of Minority Law Enforcement Officers. Her grandfather was a founder of the group in 1968.

She was in New Orleans in November at a conference of the Women Donors Network as Baltimore surpassed 300 homicides for the first time since the 1990s. Baltimore paid $236 in expenses for her security detail.

Later that month, she attended a gala in New York City for the website The Root's list of most influential African-Americans. Officials said that was one of several events she paid out of pocket to attend.

Mosby said her office pays for travel required for her to carry out her role as chief prosecutor. Only one fit that description: a weeklong trip in June to the National District Attorneys Association conference in Washington. The city covered her $660 for the registration fee and $1,311 for five nights at the Loews Madison Hotel. Mosby said she shared a room at that event with a colleague to cut costs.

She paid her own way for the Maryland State's Attorneys Conference in Ocean City in June. The city paid $2,477 for her security detail to accompany her on that trip, records show.

Despite her popularity in some circles, Mosby has become a target of heavy criticism and even threats from others, which led the Police Department to suggest she travel with a two-member security team.

"For the past year, the State's Attorney has suffered the brunt of death threats, as well as racist and sexist remarks via social media, e-mail and U.S. Postal Mail," the office said in a statement. "Considering the consistent and rather frequent threats of death and serious bodily harm to her from people and organizations throughout the country, the Baltimore Police Department felt it would be best that she travel with two detectives in an effort to ensure her safety."

Among other gifts, Mosby reported receiving $155 worth of gourmet popcorn from Ebony magazine's "Power 100" awards, which were held in December.

The mayor's office gave her tickets to two Orioles games, in April and October, and she received tickets from Rep. Elijah E. Cummings to a Congressional Black Caucus event in Washington where President Barack Obama spoke. Another political ally, Kweisi Mfume, gave her tickets to Morgan State University's gala, while James DeGraffenreidt, an attorney and the former chief executive officer of Washington Gas, gave her tickets to the Walters Art Museum gala.

Mosby should be expected to be prompt to future events, as three groups gave her a clock: Minority Access Inc., CURE Operation Pulse and Lyndhurst Elementary School.

Baltimore Sun reporters Michael Dresser and Erin Cox contributed to this article.

jfenton@baltsun.com

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