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Q&A: Baltimore’s Marilyn Mosby and attorney on the criminal tax investigation of her and her husband

Editor’s note: Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby and her attorney agreed to answer questions in writing about the ongoing federal criminal tax investigation of her and her husband, Nick Mosby, the City Council president. The following represents the views of Marilyn Mosby and her personal attorney only. Nick Mosby, who has hired a separate attorney, did not respond to questions.

To the best of your understanding, what specifically precipitated the federal investigation? Can you explain how all this came about?

I believe that the present federal investigation began after my client, Marilyn Mosby, refused to provide the Inspector General, Isabel Cumming, with her and her husband’s tax and business records dating back seven years¹, which had absolutely no relevance to and was outside the scope and purview of the self-imposed investigation that my client requested in order to negate erroneous media reports regarding her business travel and financial disclosures for the past two years. Following Mrs. Mosby’s refusal to adhere to the Inspector General’s excessively broad request, Isabel Cumming then attempted to engage the State Ethics Commission², who were simultaneously conducting their own audit of my client’s travel and financial disclosures. In light of the fact that Isabel Cumming had no jurisdiction over the matters she sought to engage, the State Ethics Commission refused to neither engage the Inspector General in their investigation nor the outcome of their findings.³

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Shortly thereafter, with no basis and/or allegation of wrongdoing, Bar Counsel for the Attorney Grievance Commission, Lydia Lawless, began requesting the exact same tax and business records originally requested by Isabel Cumming. Despite the lack of evidence that my client engaged in any unethical practices, Mrs. Mosby in good faith produced her and her husband’s tax returns dating back seven years, but per the advice of counsel declined to provide Lydia Lawless with subsequently requested supporting documents that were well outside the scope of her purview and jurisdiction. The present federal investigation against Mrs. Mosby, which was initiated and approved under the Trump administration, is an eerily similar tax inquiry which may not have been procedurally referred to the United States Attorney’s Office by the Criminal Tax Division of the Department of Justice, but rather we believe is the result of a referral made by Lydia 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.

Mr. Bolden has called it a criminal tax investigation. What do you understand the feds to be specifically looking at in your taxes? Does it have to do with the $45,000 IRS lien? Does it have to do with Mahogany companies or Monumental Squared? Does it have to do with the condo in Florida or the rental near Disney World?

Like millions of other Americans in this country, my client(s) owed taxes and have since paid them. There is nothing criminal about that. To my knowledge, based upon the government’s request, the investigation appears to be partially related to the corporate entities identified. However, we also know that it’s related to the lack of production of tax documents for certain years to the Maryland Bar. 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. To be sure, any concerns the IRS has regarding my client’s federal taxes or her returns or her separate businesses or second homes, should simply be subject of a IRS civil audit — not a federal criminal investigation. If I am wrong, then every elected official in the State of Maryland, who has or had a tax lien, owns separate businesses and owns more than one home, should be under federal criminal investigation, and they are not. Nor should they be, nor should my client be in this position.

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Did Mrs. Mosby report false charitable donations to churches or any other entities?

No. And, Marilyn Mosby categorically denies any such allegations to the contrary. Indeed, her tax filings were prepared, reviewed, and submitted with the expert advice and counsel of a tax accountant and financial planning professional.

You sent a letter to DOJ requesting Leo Wise and Stephen Schenning be pulled off the case. How has DOJ responded?

Despite our efforts to raise the obvious conflict of interest issues to the relevant leadership at the Department of Justice, as well as the Office of Professional Responsibility (“OPR”), Mr. Wise and Mr. Schenning are still leading the Mosby investigation. On March 19 and 23, 2021, I wrote to the Director and Chief Counsel of the DOJ’s OPR, to inform him of the troubling misconduct and the personal and political animus of Assistant United States Attorney (“AUSA”) Schenning and AUSA Wise in connection with the pending investigation against my client¹⁰. I stated, with support from the DOJ Manual, that whether the DOJ and OPR, agree with our position or not, the mere appearance of impropriety warrants removal of Mr. Schenning and Mr. Wise from this investigation.

To date, the OPR has declined to take any action and even suggested that the proper forum for our complaint was with the federal court. The DOJ’s decision not to act or even investigate the animus of the prosecutors leading this investigation misses the mark and is very disappointing. The investigators need to be investigated now, not later, as the personal, the political, and perhaps even the racial animus towards my client(s), continues to negatively taint any independent review of my client’s conduct. Waiting for a judicial determination after my client is charged, as DOJ suggests, doesn’t resolve the issue — it exacerbates the potential harm to my client less than a year out from her re‐election.¹¹

Have the feds given any indication, in writing or otherwise, that they intend to bring charges? What have they communicated to you?

Despite our repeated efforts to engage with AUSA Wise and request a conference, as required by §6‐4.214 of the DOJ Manual and DOJ Criminal Tax Division Directive No. 86‐58¹², Mr. Wise and his colleagues have declined to fully engage us regarding the investigation, shared very limited details of their investigation with us, notwithstanding the fact that the feds, with the assistance of Isabel Cumming, made it a point to make the federal investigation publicly known by going into City Hall in the first place¹³ to question and serve subpoenas in a public setting.

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Finally, the scope of their “witch hunt” seems to have broadened beyond a tax inquiry, whereby, they have now reached out to my client’s children’s dance instructors, my client’s hairdresser, and food vendors used during my client’s campaign for re‐election.

There has been a mention of a legal-defense fund where people can donate to help Mrs. Mosby pay for their defense. Have you already, or do you plan to, start a legal-defense fund? Can people donate now? If so, how?

Yes, a legal defense fund has already been established for Mr. and Mrs. Mosby. It is my understanding that the fund¹⁴ is managed by an uninterested legal trustee, and soon will begin accepting donations.

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Do you anticipate the feds will indict you? Are you expecting the feds to indict Nick? If so, what do you expect charges to be?

To my knowledge the feds have no legal basis to indict my client, Mrs. Mosby. As I have mentioned, 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.

You have said the Mosbys are being targeted by the feds because of their race or progressive politics. What evidence do you have to support this?

Every elected official should be investigated when it concerns criminality, corruption, and ethical lapses; however, it is well documented that Black lawmakers and politicians are disparately targeted, investigated and probed for criminality, corruption and ethical violations. As extensively discussed in George Derek Musgrove’s “Rumor, Repression, and Racial Politics,” throughout the history of our country, there’s a perception based on a very specific reality that the government and the news media have an adversarial relationship toward Black elected officials. As a Black woman in her role, Mrs. Mosby represents one percent of all elected prosecutors and yet has led the progressive prosecutor movement in this country that has brought about police accountability reform nationally, she’s implemented one of the most progressive forward thinking drug policies in our nation and she’s unafraid to stand for underrepresented communities over-represented in the criminal justice system.

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These policies and positions have made my client an adversary to those that oppose reform, which is why despite the fact that my client has already been found not to violate State Ethics laws and she’s been found not be in violation of the administrative rules alleged by an overzealous Inspector General¹⁵, certain news media outlets have run 248 negative news stories against her in one year.¹⁶ One media outlet provided a public apology after publishing an illustration that placed the photo of my client next to all former convicted Baltimore officials¹⁷ and now the federal government has decided to convene a federal criminal grand jury in order to conduct what would ordinarily be a civil tax audit.

Why is it that the federal government is examining my client’s three nascent LLC’s in excruciating detail yet Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who owns at least 43 companies, which he’s continued to operate and grow while he is in office, has not been subjected to the same scrutiny, concern, and vitriolic media coverage?¹⁸ I contend and stand by the fact that my client is being targeted by the federal government because of her race and her politics.

What are your thoughts about how the feds have handled the investigation so far?

I am wholly disappointed with not only how these prosecutors have handled this investigation, but the lack of oversight by the Department of Justice. In sum, this is a routine tax audit matter that the Department of Justice is prosecuting through the misuse of the federal grand jury process. This vindictive prosecution is clearly a result of the prosecutors’ personal, political and perhaps racial animus against Mrs. Mosby and continuing the investigation any further is a miscarriage of justice.

What would you say to folks in Baltimore who are wondering if Marilyn Mosby did anything wrong with her taxes, what the feds are investigating, or anything else?

I would say that Mrs. Mosby has done nothing illegal, immoral or inappropriate and has nothing to hide. I maintain that the current investigation is nothing more than a “witch hunt” by Mrs. Mosby’s political adversaries. My client has been and will continue to be transparent and cooperative throughout this process and we look forward to a swift resolution, so that Mrs. Mosby can get back to focusing on what she loves and does well – serving the people of Baltimore.


¹ Federal authorities have declined to answer questions about the investigation, including when it began, and Bolden did not offer details of this timing. « Return to answer

² Cumming declined to respond. « Return to answer

³In keeping with its practice, the commission did not make its findings public. « Return to answer

⁴ In keeping with its practice, the commission did not make its findings public. The U.S. attorney’s office in Baltimore has declined to comment on the investigation, but public signs of the probe, such as a visit by federal agents to City Hall and subpoenas served at local churches, took place after President Joe Biden took office. « Return to answer

⁵ In her role as bar counsel, Lawless may refer to law enforcement information about criminal wrongdoing. Lawless does not comment on open investigations or cases that result in no finding of wrongdoing. She declined to comment for this article. « Return to answer

⁶ In 2016, George Washington University professor John F. Banzhaf III announced he filed complaints with the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission, alleging Mosby knew she did not have probable cause to charge the officers and should have reassessed after the first three were acquitted. The commission only makes cases public when Lawless seeks to have it discipline an attorney. She has not sought discipline against Mosby. « Return to answer

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⁷ The IRS in February 2020 levied a $45,000 lien against the property of Marilyn and Nick Mosby over unpaid federal taxes between 2014 and 2016, according to a filing in Baltimore Circuit Court. Nick Mosby said in October that it resulted from an early withdrawal from his retirement savings plan for “unplanned expenses after a series of family tragedies.” The lien was recorded as “satisfied” in favor of the government June 28, court records show. « Return to answer

⁸ Baltimore’s Union Baptist Church received a federal grand jury subpoena seeking information about whether Nick Mosby had made contributions there, the church’s attorney, Robert Dashiell, confirmed. The pastor of another church, Bethel AME, also said he received a subpoena, though the Rev. Patrick Clayborn said he did not know details of what it sought. « Return to answer

⁹ In an April 12 letter obtained by The Baltimore Sun, the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility told Bolden it wouldn’t pull Schenning and Wise from the case, saying it doesn’t interfere in pending investigations and he should make such arguments to the court. In a letter to the office, Bolden had accused Schenning and Wise of making reckless accusations in 2018 that a leak in Marilyn Mosby’s office tipped off members of the Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force that there was a federal investigation underway of the unit. « Return to answer

¹⁰ In letters to the Department of Justice, Bolden noted that Wise made donations of $100 each to two Democrats who challenged Mosby in the 2018 primary. « Return to answer

¹¹ Marilyn Mosby won election to a four-year term in 2014 and was reelected in 2018. « Return to answer

¹² According to the Justice Department rule, “The United States Attorney’s Office has discretion to grant or deny a taxpayer’s request for a conference.” The directive cited finds “the taxpayer should be given a reasonable opportunity to present his/her case at a conference before the Tax Division.” In addition, the directive says authorities can consider whether disclosing information could put anyone, such as a witness, at risk of intimidation or danger. « Return to answer

¹³ Federal authorities did not announce the March 10 visit of agents to City Hall. It was reported by The Baltimore Sun, which used the Maryland Public Information Act to obtain surveillance video of the agents entering City Hall. « Return to answer

¹⁴ Bolden declined to answer additional questions about the legal defense fund. « Return to answer

¹⁵ Cumming wrote that Mosby’s travel costing more than $800 required approval from the city’s spending panel. City Solicitor Jim Shea later reported the rules were ambiguous and inconsistently applied and he found no fault with Mosby. Still, the inconsistencies caused the spending board to pass in June new rules requiring elected officials to seek the board’s approval for travel expenses of $100 or more if a third party is paying the cost. « Return to answer

¹⁶ In May, Mosby’s spokeswoman Zy Richardson wrote the Federal Communications Commission to file a formal complaint against WBFF-TV in Baltimore, including that the station produced 248 stories about Mosby last year. At the time, an FCC spokesman said the agency does not comment on or confirm individual complaints. WBFF Vice President and General Manager Billy Robbins defended the reporting as in the public interest. « Return to answer

¹⁷ Baltimore Magazine published an apology in July 2021 that acknowledged Marilyn Mosby’s contention that an illustration accompanying a May 2021 story may have left a false impression that the couple had been convicted of a crime. The illustration showed the Mosbys among convicted politicians such as former mayors Catherine Pugh and Sheila Dixon and former state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks. « Return to answer

¹⁸ Hogan’s real estate firm, Hogan Cos. was founded in 1985. Before the Republican took office as governor in 2014, he sought guidance from the State Ethics Commission and under an agreement the commission approved in 2016, his brother oversees the firm’s day-to-day affairs, a trust handles Hogan’s business interests, and Hogan can receive updates from the trust. The governor has been criticized for his investments, with some watchdog groups questioning whether he has conflicts of interest. At least two ethics complaints have been filed about his business dealings, but the commission has not made any public decisions on them. Hogan defends his business dealings as aboveboard and says he’s followed ethics laws and the commission’s instructions. « Return to answer

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