The court will help pay the cost of the expert witnesses Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby plans to call in defense against federal perjury and mortgage fraud charges, a judge ruled Tuesday.
Mosby’s lawyers have indicated they intend to rely on several experts to build her defense. Defense witnesses may testify about a forensic analysis of her personal and business finances, the federal government’s CARES Act and federal tax liens, according to court documents filed in March.
Expert testimony can be costly, and Mosby asked the court to foot the bill under the Criminal Justice Act, which required federal court districts to carve out resources to support those accused of crimes who cannot afford an attorney or other elements of legal representation. If a person is eligible, more often than not they’re represented by the federal Office of the Public Defender. It’s up to a judge to decide when a defendant asks.
In an order issued Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby found the “expert services” Mosby requested are “necessary” and that Mosby is “financially unable to obtain these services at this time to adequately prepare for trial.”
Griggsby found that Mosby, who makes a salary of about $248,000 a year from the city, has “sufficient financial resources at this time to contribute” to the funds the court authorized to pay for experts, and directed Mosby to reimburse the court over time. The order did not specify a timetable for repayment, nor an amount. Griggsby also ordered Mosby to advise the court by Aug. 5 whether she could afford the repayments, and to provide continuous updates every 30 days.
Defense attorney Andrew I. Alperstein, a former prosecutor who is not involved in Mosby’s case, said it’s common to incur expert fees of $10,000 or more, with some offering their services with a flat rate and others charging by the hour.
“Government funds exist in certain circumstances for individuals charged in recognition that the prosecutor has access to unlimited resources and the accused doesn’t always have the resources to keep up with the government,” Alperstein told The Baltimore Sun. “In rare circumstances where the defendant in federal court has been charged and gets a private attorney, the court will allow for funding of either the defense attorney, expert witnesses, investigators or other resources to make the process fair.”
In order to get a judge to approve the money, a person has to make a case for what they need and must show they may not be able to afford it, Alperstein said.
Mosby has portrayed herself as the victim of repeated investigations, beginning with the city inspector general’s probe into her travels — which the state’s attorney requested herself.
“They have combed every aspect of my life for the past two years, and this is where we are: hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt in attorneys fees,” Mosby told reporters on the steps of Baltimore’s federal courthouse on April 14.
Mosby, the city’s two-term elected prosecutor, is scheduled to stand trial Sept. 19. She is running for reelection in the Democratic primary election July 19.
Mosby is charged with two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements on mortgage applications for a pair of vacation properties in Florida: an eight-bedroom rental near Disney World and a condo on the state’s Gulf Coast.
Prosecutors say she falsely claimed to have suffered financial hardship from the coronavirus to withdraw $90,000 from her city retirement savings under the CARES Act, Congress’ first pandemic relief package, and then used that money to buy the properties in Florida. She also allegedly lied about using the house as a second home to secure a lower interest rate and neglected to disclose a federal tax lien, according to the indictment.
“Simply put, the defendant’s perjury allowed her to leverage $90,000 in funds she should not have had access to in order to get two vacation homes,” prosecutors wrote in previous court papers.
After denying Mosby’s first attempt at having the charges against her dismissed on the grounds of vindictive prosecution, Griggsby has since allowed Mosby’s lawyers to go forward with a new argument: The two perjury charges should be dismissed because the federal government used ambiguous language in its guidelines for who was eligible for coronavirus relief.
While the motion marked a shift from personally attacking prosecutors to raising a legal challenge, the government filed a stern response describing her attorneys’ logic as dystopian.
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The latest filing for dismissal bore the names of attorneys Gary Proctor and Lucius Outlaw, who joined Mosby’s defense team for free. Attorney A. Scott Bolden leads Mosby’s defense and did not return a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.
A legal defense fund was established for Mosby and her husband, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby, about a year ago when it was revealed that federal prosecutors were investigating the power couple’s taxes.
As of March 15, the fund had received at least $14,352 in donations, according to a report from the city’s Board of Ethics.
The ethics board ordered Nick Mosby to quit accepting donations through the fund after it found he had violated city rules by taking money from two city contractors. Nick Mosby is appealing the board’s ruling. The board has no jurisdiction over Marilyn Mosby.
The Mosbys have used campaign finance money to help cover their legal expenses over the years. In her January filing, Marilyn reported spending nearly $48,000 on lawyers, including $37,500 to Reed Smith LLP, where Bolden is a partner.
The Maryland State Board of Elections found Mosby’s campaign spending did not violate election law. Even though officials OK’d that spending, future spending could result in a violation.
Marilyn Mosby did not report any legal expenses in her most recent campaign finance filing.