U.S. Attorney demotes Leo Wise, the prosecutor taking on Marilyn Mosby

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Leo Wise, the federal prosecutor who took down former Mayor Catherine Pugh, a squad of corrupt Baltimore cops, an ex-police chief, two state lawmakers, and is currently prosecuting former State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, has been demoted and was temporarily removed from Mosby’s case, The Baltimore Sun has learned.

Maryland U.S. Attorney Erek Barron removed Wise as chief of the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Public Corruption and Fraud Unit on March 21, announcing the move in an office-wide memo sent the next day.


Wise, 46, remains a line prosecutor in the unit he most recently led, with Assistant U.S. Attorney Harry Gruber being named the new chief. Gruber most recently led a task force investigating COVID-19 fraud cases, an initiative Barron and other U.S. attorneys have pushed in recent months.

A spokeswoman for Barron’s office confirmed the change but declined to comment further. Reached by phone, Wise also declined to comment.


As the U.S. Attorney in Maryland, Barron has full authority to determine who leads what units in his office.

The decision to remove Wise as the unit chief came after he and Barron butted heads in recent months over staffing decisions and the Mosby case, according to people familiar with the decision but who were not authorized to speak publicly.

When Barron demoted Wise, he also decided to remove him from the Mosby case, the sources said. Barron reversed course shortly thereafter and reinstated him to the case before the week was up. Mosby is charged with two counts each of perjury and mortgage fraud.

Federal prosecutors allege the Baltimore Democrat lied about experiencing adverse financial conditions in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus pandemic in order to make two early withdrawals from her city-managed retirement account. She used the money, about $80,000, to make down payments on two Florida vacation properties — an eight-bedroom rental near Disney World and a condo on the Gulf Coast — and allegedly also misled the lenders.

Longtime defense attorney Warren Brown said the zealousness with which Wise investigated and prosecuted cases was bound to rub some people the wrong way.

“The spotlight that goes with those types of cases can have unintended consequences of people focusing a lot of their time and attention on you and that gives them opportunity to find issues they are concerned about,” Brown said.

Wise and Barron previously clashed over Mosby’s case in September when Wise and the other prosecutors on the case asked U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby on Sept. 13 to either ban her expert witnesses from testifying or to continue the case so that the government could hire its own rebuttal witnesses, the sources said. Prosecutors, in the motion to continue or exclude experts, said the late disclosure of expert testimony by Mosby’s defense put them at a disadvantage.

Barron, sources said, wrote a late night email to his prosecutors ordering them to withdraw the motion for continuance and to hold the trial as scheduled.


Wise and his fellow prosecutors refused, with Wise threatening to withdraw from the case if the request for a postponement was withdrawn, sources said. Griggsby ordered the case delayed Sept. 14, and it has since been delayed again after all of Mosby’s lawyers quit the case. It is now scheduled to start Nov. 2.

A Harvard Law School graduate and member of the U.S. Attorney’s Office since 2010, Wise has developed a reputation as a high-profile prosecutor willing to take on public officials and community leaders, no matter how prominent. Wise led the prosecution of Pugh, who resigned and pleaded guilty amid the Healthy Holly scandal, and of Police Commissioner Darryl DeSousa, who failed to file his taxes.

Wise also brought the federal cases against members of Baltimore Police’s Gun Trace Task Force and the 80-defendant Eastern Correctional Institute racketeering case.

Greenbelt attorney William Brennan represented former Maryland Del. Cheryl Glenn in her federal bribery case, which Wise prosecuted, and said he thought Wise was “honest, honorable and straightforward” in his dealings. Glenn pleaded guilty in 2020.

Leo Wise, left, the federal prosecutor who took down former Mayor Catherine Pugh and is currently prosecuting former State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, has been demoted and was temporarily removed from Mosby’s case.

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Wise has made his fair share of enemies in Maryland legal circles. His December 2021 prosecution of well-respected attorneys Kenneth Ravenell and Joshua Treem rankled members of the defense bar who found Wise to be overzealous in how he pursues cases. A jury convicted Ravenell of one count of money laundering, for which he was sentenced to nearly five years imprisonment. Treem, charged with obstruction of justice, was acquitted.

“The prosecution of Josh Treem was an utter failure of judgment by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland,” Treem’s attorney Robert Trout said after the verdict.


As part of the investigation into Treem, prosecutors sought a search warrant for the Brown, Goldstein and Levy law firm. The materials seized from the firm, which were likely subject to attorney-client privilege, were supposed to be reviewed by a “filter team” of prosecutors before reaching those handling the Treem case. The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that was improper, and that such a team was an example of the executive branch performing a judicial function.

Mosby and her former attorney, A. Scott Bolden, are some of Wise’s most vocal critics, accusing him of mounting a racist, politically motivated investigation against her and her husband, City Council President Nick Mosby. Nick Mosby has not been charged with a crime. Reached by phone, Bolden declined to comment for this article.

A judge found there was no evidence either Wise or the U.S. Attorney’s Office was acting with racial or political vindictiveness in Marilyn Mosby’s case.

The Congressional Black Caucus also accused the Office of Congressional Ethics of targeting its members when Wise served as the first chief ethics investigator for the U.S. House of Representatives from 2008 to 2010.

President Joe Biden appointed Barron, a former member of the Maryland General Assembly, as U.S. Attorney for Maryland in October 2021.