Former Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby was found guilty of two counts of perjury on Thursday, a stunning reversal for the city’s two-term top prosecutor.
Jurors took about seven hours to convict Mosby of lying about experiencing financial difficulties related to the COVID-19 pandemic to withdraw money early from a retirement account to buy two vacation homes in Florida.
The defense had argued the pandemic dashed her hopes of operating a side business, which created an eligible hardship under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act, and that the guidelines for withdrawing the money were vague. But prosecutors said she suffered no such hardship and was fumbling for an excuse.
The charges each bring a maximum penalty of five years in prison, though actual sentences are typically far less.
When the verdict was read, Mosby continued to look straight ahead at the panel and did not have a visible reaction, maintaining her gaze even as the court clerk individually polled jurors.
“I’m blessed,” Mosby said as she left the courthouse. She and her attorneys otherwise declined to comment.
In a statement, Maryland U.S. Attorney Erek Barron said: “We respect the jury’s verdict and remain steadfastly committed to our mission to uphold the rule of law, keep our country safe, protect the civil rights of all Americans, and safeguard public property.”
Mosby, 43, a Democrat, took office in 2015, becoming one of the youngest top prosecutors in the country and rocketing to national prominence when early in her first term she charged six Baltimore Police officers in the death of Freddie Gray.
She was indicted in January 2022, and contended that the charges were brought for politically and racially motivated reasons — arguments she was barred from making in court. Her attorneys also asserted her case was the only one of its type in the country, saying they were unable to find an instance of anyone else being criminally charged for wrongly accessing retirement funds during the pandemic.
With the charges hanging over her head, Mosby finished third in last year’s Democratic primary.
She still faces two counts of putting false information on mortgage paperwork — charges that were severed from the perjury charges. No date has been set for a disposition on those charges.
At trial, which took place in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt after Mosby won a change of venue, federal prosecutors alleged that Mosby twice lied on a form in 2020 about experiencing an “adverse financial consequence” to take advantage of a provision in the CARES Act to withdraw $90,000 that she otherwise would not have been able to access. She used that money to buy a home in Kissimmee, Florida, as well as a condo in Longboat Key, Florida.
Mosby checked off a box certifying under penalty of perjury that she had experienced the closure or reduction of hours of a business she owned or operated.
Defense attorneys maintained that Mosby started a travel company, Mahogany Elite Enterprises, prior to the pandemic and spent money registering it with the state, obtaining a domain name, and going on trips as research. They pointed to testimony from the executive director of the city retirement system, who acknowledged that the rules concerning what qualified as a financial hardship were not defined, meaning Mosby reasonably believed she fit the criteria.
“With little or no guidance, the evidence is that Marilyn Mosby got it right,” public defender James Wyda told jurors in closing arguments. “But even if she didn’t, if you think it’s wrong that her women’s retreat business did not suffer an adverse financial consequence, it’s not a crime. It’s a mistake.”
The government asserted that Mosby, unlike her State’s Attorney staff, was not furloughed during the pandemic and continued to earn her $250,000 annual salary, suffered no hardship.
Mahogany Elite didn’t qualify her, they said, as it had no clients and never brought in any revenue. Mosby publicly stated at the time that she had no plans to run the business while state’s attorney, and in January 2020, she stated under penalty of perjury on financial disclosure forms that she had no business interests.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean Delaney and Aaron Zelinsky called three witnesses over 1 1/2 days before resting their case.
An FBI forensic accountant, Jenna Bender, testified at length about her review of Mosby’s finances, which included an examination of bank records, personal income tax returns and credit card statements. That’s in addition to text messages, emails and even airline boarding passes.
Mosby claimed a $5,000 deduction on her taxes in 2019 for losses related to Mahogany Elite Enterprises. Bender walked the jury through a spreadsheet that Mosby prepared that purported to itemize expenses for the company, but instead appeared to include a mix of personal trips and travel as state’s attorney.
“The truth matters. Sometimes, the truth can take work to find,” Delaney said in his closing argument. “The truth is that Marilyn Mosby is guilty of perjury.”
Mosby’s attorneys — Wyda, Assistant Federal Public Defender Maggie Grace and Howard University School of Law Associate Professor of Law Lucius Outlaw III — declared that their client did nothing wrong and was innocent.
They contended that Mosby planned to run her business aimed at hosting retreats for professional women of color, but that the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the travel industry.
“This case is about a three-page form and what was in Marilyn Mosby’s mind when she filled it out,” Wyda said. “She qualified, and she reasonably believed she qualified.”
Shelonda Stokes, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, testified that she and Mosby took a trip to Jamaica in 2019 and discussed starting a business to cater to professional Black women.
Mosby, she said, launched the company. Stokes said she took part in meetings with “interested parties” but did not go into specific detail.
When the Baltimore Brew discovered the business in 2020, Mosby described the company as a “long-term venture” that she had no plans to operate while in office.
Zy Richardson, who previously worked as director of communications for the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office, testified that she advised Mosby that it was bad politics to run the company while in office. Mosby later agreed to publicly walk away from the business.
Mosby elected not to testify after prosecutors telegraphed that they planned to cross-examine her on allegations of other uncharged crimes. Those included $18,000 in charitable contributions cited on her taxes that prosecutors do not believe she actually donated. Her previous defense attorneys said prosecutors had sought additional crimes, but were denied by the Department of Justice tax division.
In 2022, Ivan Bates, a defense attorney in Baltimore, prevailed in the Democratic primary for Baltimore state’s attorney and then ran unopposed on Election Day. He was sworn in on Jan. 3 and campaigned on policies including reversing Mosby’s decision to stop prosecuting nonviolent, low-level offenses.
U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby is expected to schedule a conference to determine next steps in the case.