Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby was held in constructive civil contempt of court on Friday and fined $1,500 after a judge found that she willfully violated a gag order for commenting on Instagram about the controversial case of Keith Davis Jr., a man who’s awaiting a fifth murder trial.
Mosby’s office requested the gag order, which a judge granted on June 7. She later appeared on “Midday” with Tom Hall on WYPR, mentioned the gag order and made remarks including, “I can just tell you, in that particular case, I’m concerned about the victim. And I’m going to fight for them the same way I fight for every victim in the city of Baltimore.”
In response to a comment on a video about the case posted on @murder_ink_bmore on Instagram, Mosby wrote on July 5, “You really shouldn’t believe everything you read.”
Circuit Judge John S. Nugent said he was drafting the written gag order when Mosby appeared on the radio. But he said the her comment on Instagram was clearly intended to influence public opinion about the case.
“I cannot see the social media comments on Instagram as anything but a willful violation of this court’s gag order,” Nugent said.
Mosby can avoid paying the fine if she complies with a more restrictive gag order and refrains from making any comments about the case without the court’s permission for the next 90 days.
Davis, 31, of Reisterstown, is charged with second-degree murder and using a firearm during the commission of a crime of violence in the fatal shooting of Pimlico Race Course security guard Kevin Jones on June 7, 2015.
The case ended in mistrials two times. Meanwhile, judges twice overturned a conviction.
Davis maintains his innocence, and the case has become one of the most contentious in recent memory in Baltimore.
Deborah Katz Levi and Andrew Northrup, Davis’ attorneys, filed the petition for constructive civil contempt of court and dismissal on June 14, arguing that Mosby’s remarks on WYPR were intended to paint their client as a guilty man and “defend, justify, and garner public support for her controversial oft-criticized decision to re-prosecute him.”
They later filed a supplement about Mosby’s comment on Instagram.
During the hearing, Levi played excerpts of Mosby’s interview on WYPR and read aloud the exchange on Instagram.
Levi argued that attorneys must be held to a greater standard than the public, particularly the “highest elected official in the city of Baltimore.” Davis, she said, could not respond to the comments because he’s incarcerated.
At times, Nugent appeared to push back, noting that he was drafting the gag order when Mosby appeared on the radio. But Levi argued that dismissing her petition on that basis would be an absurd result and constitute an injustice.
Later, Levi discussed the comment on Instagram, noting that it reflected on her client’s presumption of innocence and right to a fair trial.
“Ms. Mosby has shown a pattern,” Levi said. “She just can’t help herself.”
Levi suggested four potential sanctions, which ranged from the judge dismissing the indictments against her client to ordering Mosby to deliver a public apology on the courthouse steps or on Instagram.
Meanwhile, Chief Counsel Erin Murphy argued that Mosby had previously agreed to appear on WYPR and that the host asked her about the case. The interview lasted about 48 minutes.
Though the state’s attorney’s comments on Instagram might’ve been unwise, Murphy contended, the defense had not met its burden of proof.
Mosby sat in the gallery of the courtroom next to her office’s spokesperson, Zy Richardson, and did not testify during the hearing.
Following the hearing, Levi walked over and embraced Davis’ wife, Kelly. As sheriff’s deputies escorted her husband out of the courtroom, she turned to him and said, “I love you.”
Supporters cheered as law enforcement led Keith Davis Jr. out of the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse and into a van. He’s being held without bail in the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center.
In an interview, Kelly Davis said she was grateful that the judge saw Mosby’s actions as a clear violation of the gag order.
“Keith continues to be vindicated, as he was vilified for the past seven years,” Kelly Davis said. “And I’m so glad that a judge finally saw that and is very serious about his presumption of innocence.”
“That’s all we’re asking: to be fair and to have his day in court without it being tainted by the most important, the chief law enforcement officer in the city at the highest level, that continues to believe he does not have a presumption of innocence,” she added.
DeRay Mckesson, a civil rights activist whose nonprofit organization, Campaign Zero, has advocated for Keith Davis Jr.’s innocence, said Mosby continued to violate the gag order without any penalty until the hearing.
Mckesson sat next to Kelly Davis during the hearing.
“The judge noting it was a willful violation of the gag order was an important reminder to every elected official in Baltimore that they are not above the law,” Mckesson said.
Nugent previously found a “presumption of vindictiveness” in the decision from Mosby and her staff to pursue charges of attempted first-degree murder, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and related offenses against Keith Davis Jr. in a jailhouse fight that happened on June 2, 2020.
Law enforcement did not file that case until after Keith Davis Jr. won a fifth trial. That’s scheduled to begin on May 2, 2023.
Ivan Bates, the Democratic nominee for Baltimore state’s attorney, previously told The Baltimore Banner that he would drop the charges against Keith Davis Jr. or, upon the request of Jones’ family, refer the matter to an outside jurisdiction.
No Republicans are running and an independent candidate, Roya Hanna, dropped out of the race.
Election Day is Nov. 8.