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‘I’m built for this’: Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby pledges to fight federal perjury charges

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby struck a defiant tone Friday in her first public appearance since being indicted on federal perjury charges, pledging to fight a case that she called politically and racially motivated and heading off calls that she step down from office.

“I wanted the people of Baltimore to hear it from me: I’ve done nothing wrong. I did not defraud anyone to take money from my retirement savings. I did not lie on my mortgage application,” she said. “Don’t be fooled. We are now five months from my next election, and this indictment is merely a political ploy by my political adversaries to unseat me.

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“Please understand. I will never let that happen without a fight.”

The two-term Baltimore State’s Attorney is charged with two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements on loan applications to buy a condo on the Florida’s Gulf Coast and an eight-bedroom rental home near Disney World. According to the indictment, Mosby claimed a financial hardship that allowed her to make two early withdrawals totaling $81,000 from her retirement savings for the down payments.

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The early withdrawals were permitted under the federal CARES act for people who suffered financial hardship during the coronavirus pandemic. Federal prosecutors, however, say Mosby suffered no such hardship and instead saw her salary increase by $10,000 to nearly $250,000 in 2020.

In making the withdrawals, Mosby checked a box and affirmed under the penalty of perjury that she suffered financial hardship by either being furloughed, having reduced work hours, being unable to work because of a lack of child care, or a reduction in a personal business. Federal prosecutors say none of these circumstances apply to the Baltimore state’s attorney.

They also accuse Mosby of making false statements on loan applications by failing to disclose a $45,000 federal tax lien against her. According to the indictment, she falsely said the property near Orlando, Florida, was a second home, which lowered the interest rate, when she had lined up a management company to operate it as a vacation rental.

During her brief appearance Friday, Mosby did not take questions. She read a roughly five-minute statement that described her underdog bid for Baltimore State’s Attorney in 2014, then the political fallout she faced after charging six police officers in the police custody-related death of Freddie Gray — none were convicted — and implementing progressive criminal justice reforms in Baltimore.

“I am innocent, and I intend to do what I’ve always done since becoming state’s attorney in the city I love: Fight. I will fight these charges with everything I have in me,” she said. “I’m built for this, and I will not be distracted from doing my job.”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore declined to comment. Overseeing the case is the new U.S. Attorney for Maryland, Erek Barron, the first Black person to hold the position in Maryland. President Joe Biden nominated Barron, who was sworn in last October.

Handling the case is Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise, who prosecuted the rogue officers of the Gun Trace Task Force, former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh and noted attorney Ken Ravenell.

Mosby’s personal attorney, A. Scott Bolden, has seized on $100 donations Wise made to the political campaigns of Mosby’s two challengers in 2018 and sought — albeit unsuccessfully — to have Wise removed from the case.

The case against Mosby has been a matter of debate and speculation for nearly a year. Federal prosecutors issued subpoenas last March for a wide range of financial documents from Mosby and her husband, City Council President Nick Mosby. The indictment alleges no wrongdoing by Nick Mosby.

Bolden has maintained Marilyn Mosby is innocent and has accused federal authorities of pursing the case because of a personal grudge against Mosby, one “rooted in personal, political and racial animus.”

He also accused prosecutors of turning a blind eye to exculpatory evidence that Bolden claimed he provided them.

The charges come five months before the June primary election. While Mosby has not publicly declared her bid for a third term, her re-election campaign has begun to raise money. Two defense attorneys in Baltimore have launched Democratic campaigns to unseat her.

If convicted, Mosby faces a maximum of five years in prison for each of the two counts of perjury and a maximum of 30 years for each of the two counts of making a false statement. Without a past criminal record, she likely would be sentenced to far less prison time if convicted.

The case has become a lightning rod in Baltimore’s political and legal establishments as well as the Black community. As City Council president, Mosby’s husband wields political power and Baltimore’s elected officials have kept silent or been judicious with their comments.

Mosby’s supporters, including leaders in the NAACP, have rallied around her. Other Black leaders have been reluctant to speak publicly about the case, citing conflicted feelings that elected officials should be held to the highest ethical standards while noticing the biggest public corruption cases in recent years have come against Black officials.

Those include former Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa, who was sentenced to 10 months in federal prison for tax fraud, and former Mayor Catherine Pugh, who was sentenced to three years for her “Healthy Holly” fraud scheme.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is currently pursuing fraud charges against Roy McGrath, who is white and the former chief of staff to Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan.

“Any federal indictment is serious — period. And the United State’s Attorney’s Office doesn’t bring these cases without a lot of thought,” said Andrew Radding, who served as an assistant U.S. Attorney in Maryland in the 1970s before launching a white-collar defense career in Baltimore.

He said there’s more scrutiny given to whether to charge a case or pursue an investigation when the subject is a public official. However, that doesn’t mean federal prosecutors don’t get it wrong, or that conviction is a sure thing, he said.

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Radding pointed to the recent acquittal of prominent Baltimore defense attorney Joshua Treem on conspiracy and obstruction charges.

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Still, he said, federal prosecutors “vet their cases very carefully and when you’re dealing with a public official, there is an extra degree of concern because of the damage you can do to them. I would not be surprised if this was run through the Department of Justice before they returned the indictment. In fact, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t.”

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