Lawyers for a fired city prosecutor say Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby once made a “throat-slitting gesture” toward a supporter of her political rival.
Testimony about the gesture will be presented as evidence that Mosby was out to get her rival’s supporters — including firing prosecutor Keri Borzilleri, her lawyers say.
“It goes to show a state of mind,” Stacey Grigsby, who is representing Borzilleri, told a judge.
On Monday, the five-day trial began in Borzilleri’s lawsuit against Mosby. The former prosecutor is suing the state’s attorney because she says she was unlawfully fired over her politics.
During one event, Grigsby told the judge, Mosby made the throat-slitting gesture toward another former prosecutor, Syeetah Hampton-El, who had supported the previous state’s attorney, Gregg Bernstein.
Hampton-El “will testify she looked around and it was directed at her,” Grigsby told the judge.
Mosby’s attorneys, however, asked the judge to ban testimony from Hampton-El. They said there was no reason for such testimony when the case was about Borzilleri.
“The reason is to cast aspersions on my client,” said Wendy Shiff of the Maryland attorney general’s office, which is defending Mosby. “I don’t know what relevance the throat-slitting motion could have to the facts of the case.”
Mosby emerged on Maryland’s political scene five years ago with a stunning victory over the city’s previous state’s attorney. She rose to national prominence by filing charges against six Baltimore Police involved in Freddie Gray’s arrest. None were convicted.
The lawsuit stretches back to 2015, when Borzilleri first accused Mosby of the political firing. A city prosecutor for nine years, she was fired without cause four days after Mosby took office, Borzilleri says.
Borzilleri had openly supported Bernstein, whom Mosby beat in the 2014 primary election. Borzilleri also put a campaign sign for Bernstein in her yard and hosted a gathering of his supporters. Photos of the event went on Facebook.
She first sued Mosby in federal court, claiming the state’s attorney violated her rights to free speech and free association. But a federal appeals court sided with Mosby and found prosecutors are policymakers, exempt from First Amendment political protections.
Borzilleri has since brought her case to Baltimore Circuit Court. She is seeking unspecified damages.
In statements from her office, Mosby has said that it’s the prerogative of a new administration to make personnel changes.