Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby wants her federal perjury and mortgage fraud trial moved to the federal courthouse in Greenbelt, according to recently unsealed court documents.
Mosby moved in October to have her trial transferred out of Baltimore, but that motion and the records associated with her request had been kept under seal.
The original motion is being kept under seal because it contains juror information, but Mosby’s attorneys filed a redacted version Friday at the direction of U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby. The document explains for the first time why Mosby, who is nearing the end of her second and final term as Baltimore’s top prosecutor, wants to be tried away from the city where she was elected and lives.
Lawyers for the outgoing Democratic state’s attorney argued she cannot receive a fair trial in Baltimore because of excessive pretrial publicity surrounding her criminal case.
“A transfer of venue for trial in this matter is required because the pervasive negative pretrial publicity of this case has irreparably tainted the public’s opinion of State’s Attorney Mosby and the resulting prejudice against her is so great that no jury picked in the Baltimore Division will give State’s Attorney Mosby a fair and impartial trial,” the defense attorneys wrote.
Mosby’s redacted motion cited responses to a questionnaire sent to prospective jurors, saying a substantial proportion of the people who responded already had decided whether she is innocent or guilty. More than 60% of those who responded to the questionnaire indicated they’d heard of the case, while about 30% said they’d formed an opinion on her culpability.
Federal prosecutors said the traditional jury selection process is adequate to weed out potentially biased jurors to seat a panel to decide her case. Her trial is scheduled to begin March 27.
The newly unsealed records show Mosby is not asking for her case to be moved out of Maryland, but for it to be held at the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt. That court pools jurors from five counties: Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s.
The federal courthouse in Baltimore composes juries of residents from the city and all other counties in the state — from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore.
Mosby’s lawyers said in their motion that there were many more articles bearing her name on the website of The Baltimore Sun than that of The Washington Post, arguing that was evidence of how local media “unfairly maligns” her.
Prosecutors described the argument as “unavailing” in their response.
“The vast majority of the Baltimore Sun articles that appear in such a search do not pertain to this prosecution; rather they are a collection of articles about the Defendant’s job as the highest ranking prosecutor in the city of Baltimore — no wonder there are more search results than in a paper with international circulation based out of Washington, D.C.,” prosecutors wrote.
Mosby’s lawyers filed a reply to the government Monday, saying her argument pertained not only to news reports but to campaign ads and social media posts. They attached digital campaign fliers disseminated in the Republican primary race for Harford County State’s Attorney, which portrayed Mosby negatively.
“The point is that the pervasive news coverage of State’s Attorney Mosby — good, bad, or indifferent — keeps her in the public’s eye and ensures that the readers of that coverage will have formed an opinion of her,” the defense lawyers wrote. “Whether that opinion is of her alleged criminal conduct (which is invariably mentioned even in news reports that could otherwise be considered ‘good’ for her), or simply how she performed as State’s Attorney, there is an opinion.”
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Mosby is charged with two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements on loan applications for a pair of vacation properties.
Federal prosecutors say she lied about suffering financial hardship because of the coronavirus in order to make early withdrawals from her city retirement savings account under Congress’ first pandemic relief package, the CARES Act. She used the roughly $80,000 to make down payments on an eight-bedroom house near Orlando, Florida and a condo on the state’s Gulf Coast, according to her indictment.
Mosby allegedly misled lenders by signing papers claiming the house near Disney World was her second home, when she’d already arranged for a property management company to operate it as a rental — a move that allowed her to secure a lower interest rate, according to the indictment. She also allegedly neglected to disclose on the mortgage applications that their was a federal lien against her for unpaid taxes.
Had Mosby not lied about suffering financial hardship, federal prosecutors say, she wouldn’t have been able to buy the properties. With the cost of her legal defense accruing, Mosby sold the eight-bedroom rental for a profit last November.
The mortgage lenders Mosby allegedly duped are located in Michigan and North Carolina, while Nationwide, the administrator of the city’s retirement plan, is headquartered in Ohio, Mosby’s lawyers said.
“There are few facts that actually require this case to be heard in Baltimore,” the defense lawyers wrote.
Federal prosecutors countered the crime Mosby is charged with occurred in the city and, as such, she should be tried here.