A judge on Friday granted a renewed request from former Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to move her federal perjury and mortgage fraud case from Baltimore to Greenbelt and ruled that she will have two separate trials.
U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby said she was particularly struck with a data point contained in a community attitude survey commissioned by the defense that showed 45% of respondents in the Northern Division described Mosby as “very” corrupt or “somewhat” corrupt compared to 26% in the Southern Division.
Griggsby said she was attuned to the perception of fairness in the community. Baltimore, she noted, is also within commuting distance to Greenbelt.
”The standard here is a relatively low one,” Griggsby said. “We will hold trial in Greenbelt, Maryland.”
The Northern Division encompasses Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Dorchester, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico and Worcester counties, as well as Baltimore City.
Meanwhile, the Southern Division covers Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s counties.
Later, Griggsby granted a request from Mosby to have two separate trials: the first on two counts of perjury, and the second on two counts of making a false statement on a loan application.
That’s because Mosby may wish to testify about one set of charges but not the other. Griggsby said she was also concerned that the jury might confound the evidence and that no instruction could remedy that issue.
Mosby, 43, served two terms in office from 2015-2023. Federal prosecutors allege that she lied about experiencing adverse financial consequences to withdraw money early from her retirement account under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — or CARES Act — and made false statements on paperwork related to the purchase of two properties in Florida.
Federal Public Defender James Wyda, one of Mosby’s attorneys, highlighted the results of the community attitude survey and stated that moving the trial would make it “a little more fair.”
Mosby, he said, was not looking for any special treatment — she simply wants a fair trial.
“We have met our burden,” Wyda said. “Our request is modest.”
Later, Bryan Edelman, co-founder of Trial Innovations Inc., a “national full-service jury research firm” based in California, testified that he assessed the extent and nature of press coverage of the case and then conducted a survey.
Pollsters, court documents state, did phone interviews between May 31 and June 15 with 402 people in the Northern Division and 200 people in the Southern Division who are eligible to serve a jury.
“I believe that her due process rights and constitutional rights have been undermined, and there is a risk in this community, and it should be transferred,” Edelman said.
“Voir dire, in my experience, is not an effective remedy,” he later added, using the legal term for the process in which prospective jurors are questioned.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Zelinsky argued against the request to move the trial within the state, stating that the government was unaware of any other time that’s happened in the 234-year existence of the District of Maryland.
“Miss Mosby is not unique, nor is her case unique,” Zelinsky said. “The answer is voir dire.”
Zelinsky stated that the survey was “unreliable methodologically and factually.” He later called John Frehse, a senior managing director with Ankura Consulting Group in New York, to testify about his opinion of the survey.
Though Frehse said he had respect for Edelman, he expressed a lot of concerns about the survey.
Frehse testified that phone surveys are more likely to show bias and stated that he found the questions to be leading.
Next, Assistant Federal Public Defender Maggie Grace, one of Mosby’s attorneys, contended her client should stand trial separately on the charges of perjury and making a false statement on a loan application.
Grace expressed a concern that a jury might find Mosby is guilty of one set of charges and then conclude that she must be guilty of the other. Or that jurors might confuse the evidence and assume that she’s guilty of everything.
“Perjury, on the one hand, and mortgage fraud, on the other hand, are two distinct crimes, and the evidence admissible and relevant to each count are very different,” she said. “In fact, they’re almost entirely different.”
Mosby might wish to testify about one set of charges, she said, but not the other.
“This is a fundamental right,” Grace said. “A core fundamental right.”
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Delaney argued that the case “weaves together in a complete narrative” and stated that the defense had an “exceedingly high burden.”
Delaney said he was worried that a decision to split the case into two trials would result in additional motions and litigation as well as delay the matter.
“I think it’s a colossal waste of resources,” Delaney said. “These cases are tried together all the time.”
The motions hearing marked the first time that Mosby’s new legal team appeared together in court. She waived her physical appearance after reporting that she had an urgent out-of-town family emergency.
In 2022, Ivan Bates defeated Mosby in the Democratic primary and ran unopposed on Election Day. He was sworn in on Jan. 3 as the 26th Baltimore state’s attorney.
In a video on Instagram, Mosby recently made a pitch for her next business venture: a five-day retreat in Jamaica with 25 professional women that she’s billed as an “intimate holistic transformational experience.” She has also filed for divorce from her husband, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby, who’s running for reelection in 2024.
Jury selection in the perjury case is set to take place on Oct. 31, with the trial scheduled to begin on Nov. 2. It’s unclear when the second trial will take place.