GREENBELT, Md. (AP) — A former top Baltimore prosecutor lied about her finances during the COVID-19 pandemic to improperly access retirement funds that she used to buy two homes in Florida, a federal prosecutor said Monday at the start of Marilyn Mosby's perjury trial.
“This case is about a lawyer and a public servant who placed her own selfish interests above the truth,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Delaney told jurors during the trial's opening statements.
A defense attorney countered that Mosby — who gained a national profile for prosecuting Baltimore police officers after Freddie Gray, a Black man, died in police custody — was legally entitled to withdraw the money and spend it however she wanted. Mosby told the truth when she certified on paperwork that the pandemic harmed a travel-related business that she formed, said the lawyer, Maggie Grace.
“This case is about a three-page form and what was in Marilyn Mosby’s mind when she completed that form,” said Grace, an assistant federal public defender.
Mosby, who served two terms as state’s attorney for Baltimore, was indicted on perjury charges before a Democratic primary challenger defeated her last year.
The 2022 indictment accuses her of withdrawing $90,000 in retirement funds from her city account while falsely claiming that she had suffered financial hardships from the COVID-19 pandemic. She used the withdrawals as down payments to buy a home in Kissimmee, Florida, and a condominium in Long Boat Key, Florida.
A. Scott Bolden, a lawyer who initially represented Mosby but later withdrew from the case, has described the charges as “bogus” and claimed the case is “rooted in personal, political and racial animus.”
In 2015, her first year in office, Mosby pursued criminal charges against six police officers in Freddie Gray’s death. Gray suffered a spinal injury after police handcuffed, shackled and placed him headfirst into a van. His death led to riots and protests in the city. None of the officers was convicted.
U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby agreed to move Mosby’s trial from Baltimore to Greenbelt, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C.
Mosby's attorneys argued that she couldn't get a fair trial in Baltimore, where they said she has been a “lightning rod" for nearly a decade, bombarded by negative press coverage and “dogged by persistent criticism of her prosecutorial priorities.”
Prosecutors said Mosby was complaining about press coverage that she had sought and encouraged.
Mosby is charged with two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements on a loan application.
Mosby made withdrawals of $40,000 and $50,000 from Baltimore city's deferred compensation plan in 2020. Mosby received her full salary of approximately $250,000 that year.
Prosecutors say the money in the retirement account is held in trust and belongs to the city until a plan participant is eligible to make a withdrawal. They argue that Mosby wasn't entitled under federal law to access the funds in 2020 because her business, Mahogany Elite Enterprises, did not suffer any “adverse financial consequences” from the pandemic.
Delaney said Mosby's business had no clients or revenue.
“How can you have adverse financial consequences if you were paid the same salary for your job?” the prosecutor asked. “How can a business close if it was never operable?”
Grace said prosecutors can’t prove that Mosby lied about her finances and knowingly made a false statement on the form for accessing her retirement funds.
“That is a high bar that the government cannot meet. And the government cannot meet it because Ms. Mosby is innocent,” she said.
Mosby isn't charged with or accused of misusing the retirement money once she obtained it.
“We will not argue there is a right way to use these funds. We will not argue that there is a wrong way to use the funds,” Delaney said.
Grace said Mosby kept her personal business separate from her public service.
“What she did is not criminal,” Grace said.