A federal criminal tax investigation of Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and City Council President Nick Mosby has its origins in disputes with local legal and political figures rather than starting with any concern from federal authorities over potential misdeeds, Marilyn Mosby’s lawyer wrote in response to questions.
Attorney A. Scott Bolden and Marilyn Mosby agreed to answer in writing a series of questions about the federal probe. The responses, written by Bolden, disclosed that Nick Mosby has hired his own lawyer and that the Mosbys have followed through on a plan to establish a legal defense fund.
Although federal prosecutors subpoenaed local churches for records of donations by the couple, Marilyn Mosby “categorically denies” that she claimed false charitable deductions, Bolden wrote. And he accused the U.S. attorney’s office in Baltimore of carrying out an overly broad, politically motivated investigation — to the point of questioning Marilyn Mosby’s hairdresser and her daughters’ dance teacher.
“The feds have no legal basis to indict my client,” Bolden said. “This investigation appears to be essentially a civil audit of my client’s tax returns, put into a grand jury by individuals who have a personal, political, and possibly a racial animus against Mrs. Mosby, who is one of a few leading Black female progressive prosecutors in this country.”
Bolden maintains that Marilyn Mosby did nothing wrong and filed her taxes using a professional accountant and financial planner.
Through a request under Maryland’s Public Information Act, The Sun obtained a copy of a March 10 grand jury subpoena that showed prosecutors had opened the investigation.
While the investigation has provoked much public debate and speculation since, the state’s attorney and council president have said little about it and declined interviews. In the exchange with The Sun, Bolden wrote and emailed the answers July 14.
Bolden sought to emphasize a point he has raised before: that based on what he knows about the scope of the case, what’s at stake are tax issues that should have been pursued as a routine civil audit — not investigated as a crime. Bolden said prosecutors have shared few details of their investigation with him.
In his written answers, Bolden presented a theory for what started the case, saying he believes it resulted from a referral to federal investigators by Lydia Lawless, the bar counsel for the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission, because the investigation started after Marilyn Mosby refused to provide certain financial records to Lawless. However, other than that timing, he has not offered details about why he thinks Lawless is responsible for getting the federal investigation started.
Lawless declined to respond, and a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Baltimore declined to comment.
Bolden called Lawless “an individual who has unceasingly investigated and required my client to defend her law license against numerous unfounded grievances since the charging of six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, Jr.”
Lawless is responsible for bringing cases to the commission regarding attorneys accused of misconduct. Her investigations are confidential unless she files a petition for the panel to discipline an attorney. When she finds a complaint to be unfounded, the case is not made public. She has never sought to have the commission discipline Marilyn Mosby.
Bolden also contended that even before Lawless got involved, the trouble started for Marilyn Mosby with a review of her travel and gifts by Baltimore Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming.
Cumming declined to comment.
She published her review in February, along with correspondence between her and Marilyn Mosby’s attorneys. In the letters provided, Cumming asked for tax records 2018 and 2019 — not the seven years that Bolden and Mosby described. Bolden said the inspector general scaled back her request after she was rebuffed. In her report, Cumming said Mosby ultimately only provided tax records for 2019.
Marilyn Mosby registered three companies with state authorities that year. She told them in writing that Mahogany Elite Consulting would offer legal and consulting services, while Mahogany Elite Travel would provide travel and hospitality services. Mahogany Elite Enterprises LLC was to operate as a holding company. She’s since said the companies exist in name only, and that she founded them to eventually help underserved Black families vacation at discount prices.
Soon after Marilyn Mosby denied Cumming the additional tax records, Lawless asked for six years of tax records, Bolden wrote. State law affords Lawless broad authority to investigate and permits her to share any information about alleged criminal activity with law enforcement.
Marilyn Mosby provided Lawless the tax records, but declined to share with her “supporting documents,” Bolden wrote. He didn’t describe them further.
“Essentially, what Isabel Cumming and Lydia Lawless could not obtain, the US Attorney’s Office is attempting to obtain and now, criminally scrutinizing those documents. On its face, it is completely inappropriate and a waste of government resources,” Bolden wrote.
Marilyn Mosby, a Democrat, was elected in 2014 to her first term and was reelected four years later. Nick Mosby, also a Democrat, was elected citywide last fall to a four-year term as council president.
Bolden initially represented both Marilyn and Nick Mosby, but now he says he represents only Marilyn. He declined to answer additional questions about that.
Former federal prosecutor Steve Levin said that, generally speaking, spouses under criminal investigation can be represented by the same lawyer “as long as their interests are not adverse to one another.”
“If there comes a point when those interests are adverse — if [for example] one wants to go to trial or one wants to plead guilty — a lawyer can’t represent both,” Levin said. However, he added: “The fact that two targets of an investigation obtained separate counsel doesn’t necessarily mean they no longer have defenses that are aligned.”
Nick Mosby did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
Bolden said the couple’s legal defense fund will soon begin accepting donations to pay their attorneys’ fees. He said an “uninterested legal trustee” will manage it, but did not respond to additional questions about it or identify the trustee.
In Maryland, legal defense funds in support of elected officials are regulated by state ethics law, which restricts gifts to officeholders and requires disclosure of allowable gifts. But such donations aren’t subject to the caps on amounts and more frequent and detailed reporting required under campaign finance laws for contributions to candidates and campaigns — rules meant to increase transparency over potential influence and conflicts of interest.
Baltimore’s ethics law does not specifically address legal defense funds nor has the city’s Board of Ethics issued an advisory opinion on the subject, said Jeffrey Hochstetler, the board’s director. However, the city’s restrictions on gifts generally apply to any mechanism to receive donations, he said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Emily Opilo contributed to this article.