Well, here we go again, Baltimore. Except this time, unlike in recent years, we have not one, but two prominent city officials under criminal investigation — a married couple, at that.
And that’s pretty much all we can say with any certainty right now. The recent revelation that City Council President Nick Mosby and his wife, Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, are being investigated by the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI has raised far more questions than it has answered.
Here’s what we know: A federal grand jury subpoena obtained by The Sun last week through a public records request shows that investigators are seeking a wide range of records regarding the couple’s finances, taxes, charitable donations and business holdings, as well as details involving Ms. Mosby’s campaign funds. Among those receiving such subpoenas are an accountant for Mr. Mosby’s now-defunct consulting company, Monumental Squared; Ms. Mosby’s campaign treasurer; and at least two churches.
What we don’t know is whether either Mosby has in fact broken any laws. They have not publicly been charged with any crime nor accused of any specific misdeed. It’s important that we keep that in mind as the investigation moves forward. This is a powerful, public couple holding a lot of responsibility in the city, and they have two young children. The less time we spend in speculation, the better for all involved.
Neither of the Mosbys is talking, and we don’t exactly blame them. The legal advice once such an investigation has begun is almost always to stay out of the way, minimize public comments and keep focused on day to day duties. We can’t help but wish, however, that the Mosbys had been more forthcoming before we got to this point, as questions were raised about a tax lien placed on their property, side businesses Ms. Mosby had set up and her many workdays spent traveling outside Baltimore.
In a statement, the Mosbys’ lawyer, A. Scott Bolden, said that the couple has “done nothing illegal, inappropriate or unlawful.” He called the investigation “a political witch hunt” undertaken as retaliation because the Mosbys “are progressive change agents, making them unfair targets of unnecessary scrutiny by federal investigators.”
In a letter to Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility asking for a suspension of the investigation, first made public by the Washington Post Monday night, Mr. Bolden further claimed that prosecutors Stephen M. Schenning and Leo J. Wise carry personal grudges against Ms. Mosby and are purposely trying this case in the media through a “smear campaign.”
Supporters who gathered Monday night in front of City Hall repeated also suggested there was a racial component to the investigation, alleging that efforts by the Mosbys, who are Black, to uplift other Black residents of Baltimore has made them a target by “the powers that be.”
If Mr. Bolden or anyone else has credible evidence to back these claims, we earnestly encourage them to make it known. Abusing the justice system to target public officials for their policies, politics or skin color cannot be tolerated. If they do not, however, we would suggest that engaging in such conspiracy theories is another kind of speculation we can do without as information collection continues and we await a decision by the federal grand jury.
Its main function is to determine whether there is probable cause to pursue a federal charge against those under investigation, though it’s well known that grand juries almost always indict when that’s what the prosecutor presenting a case truly wants. In fact, members did so 99.97% of the time in Fiscal Year 2016, the most recent year for which statistical table data is available from the Bureau of Justice Statistics. (For examples of cases in which prosecutors are not really looking for an indictment, see many of the police killings of unarmed Black people in recent years. To name a few: Daniel Prude, Rochester, New York; Breonna Taylor, Louisville, Kentucky; Eric Garner, New York City.)
And that means even if an indictment and charges come, we must resist judgment until the evidence has been heard and evaluated, and a verdict reached. Throughout that entire time, the Mosbys are innocent until proven otherwise.
One more thing is clear: None of this is good for Baltimore, whatever the outcome. It’s not good for the daily operation of the two very important organizations these two individuals lead. It’s not good for the morale of city residents who are already fatigued from battling a deadly virus and the ever-present scourge of violence on our streets. And it’s not good for the city’s economic recovery efforts as we pull out of this pandemic. Who wants to set up shop in a city whose leaders are constantly under suspicion?
We urge the Mosbys to keep their focus on their critical work, and to not allow the investigation to become so great a distraction they can’t complete their daily obligations. If that should happen, we expect them to put Baltimore before themselves and to do the right thing. Meanwhile, the rest of us should reserve our judgments until we have a better sense of the situation. Mr. Bolden has said his clients will cooperate with investigators and “fight for the truth to come out.” That’s all any of us want.
The Baltimore Sun editorial board — made up of Opinion Editor Tricia Bishop, Deputy Editor Andrea K. McDaniels and writer Peter Jensen — offers opinions and analysis on news and issues relevant to readers. It is separate from the newsroom.