A. Scott Bolden rose to the top of his profession as an outspoken trial lawyer. He hosted radio and TV shows, chaired the D.C. Democratic Party, and became the first African American managing partner at his global law firm.

Never before had he sat in the seat of a criminal defendant.

“I feel like I’m standing at the precipice, looking out,” Bolden told a federal judge in Baltimore, his voice breaking with emotion. “If I could take back every statement I’ve made in this case that has brought me here, I would.”

The former lawyer for Marilyn Mosby was in the defendant’s seat Tuesday for a judge to decide whether Bolden should be criminally prosecuted for contempt of court. In the end, U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett dismissed the charges, but not before he reproached Bolden for spouting the same rhetoric that has made hostility the norm in federal politics.

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Bennett referred to the shouts of “Liar!’ during the president’s State of the Union speech and the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

“The court system has stood above the fray, and still does. ... You allowed yourself to be caught up in all the noise and the rhetoric that we see in other branches of government,” Bennett told him. “We cannot add to it; we calm it down.”

The charges stemmed from Bolden’s combative defense of the former Baltimore state’s attorney. A judge in Mosby’s ongoing perjury case found Bolden went too far, breaking confidentiality rules of the court and publicly calling prosecutors’ actions “bullshit.” Bolden made that outburst in September on the courthouse steps before news cameras.

“Anger and frustration got the best of me. I wish I could take that profane word back. It was inappropriate,” Bolden told the judge. “I am imperfect. ... but I am no criminal.”

Bennett observed the unprecedented nature of the hearing. In his two decades on the bench, he never before considered a contempt of court charge against an attorney, let alone a top white-collar defense lawyer.

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Just then the fire alarm interrupted the proceedings and everyone evacuated onto the street. “Another wrinkle to an incredible situation,” the judge observed.

When the hearing resumed, Bennett said he found Bolden’s “theatrics” and “profanity” contrary to the standards of the court, but not deserving of criminal prosecution.

“You are much better than this,” the judge told him. “The thought that you have brought stain and dishonor on yourself is regrettable.”

From the start of his defense of Mosby, Bolden has come after federal prosecutors and accused them of bias because of Mosby’s race, gender and politics. U.S. District Judge Lydia Griggsby — the first Black woman to serve as a federal judge in Baltimore — found no merit to his claims and denied his attempts to have the case thrown out.

A federal grand jury indicted Mosby more than a year ago on charges of perjury and making false statements on a loan application. She’s accused of lying to withdraw money from her retirement savings under a benefit intended for people who suffered financial hardship from the coronavirus pandemic.

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Last month, Griggsby found Bolden should be held in criminal contempt for publicly disclosing confidential juror responses in court filings and his comments on the courthouse steps. The judge singled out his use of profanity.

Bolden pulled out of Mosby’s case, writing that he must focus now on his own defense. Mosby was appointed attorneys from the federal public defender’s office. Her trial is expected in the fall.

Outside the courthouse Tuesday, Bolden only had a few words.

“I’m just very thankful, grateful, and appreciate the judge’s full consideration and balance of the issues. It’s very humbling. But I just want to get back to practicing law and defending my clients.”

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Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the year A. Scott Bolden’s position changed at the law firm Reed Smith LLP. He served as managing partner of the D.C. office through 2021.

tim.prudente@thebaltimorebanner.com