Outgoing Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby is asking that her federal perjury trial be held in Greenbelt instead of Baltimore, according to newly unsealed court filings.

Mosby’s attorneys filed the request under seal last month, but media outlets including The Baltimore Banner objected and U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby ordered them to file a public version.

“State’s Attorney Mosby is a polarizing political figure, who the media frequently and unfairly maligns, thus swaying the public sentiment against her and thus making it very difficult, if not impossible, to seat an unbiased jury in Baltimore,” the defense team wrote in its initial motion that was originally filed Oct. 20.

In a follow-up filing Nov. 14, they said moving the trial “to a courthouse a mere 30 miles away” to a location “where far fewer people have heard of or formed an opinion about this case” is “far more likely to provide a fair and unbiased jury pool.”

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Prosecutors say the jury pool for a trial in Baltimore’s district, which spans from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore, easily provides enough people from which to cull an unbiased panel.

“The remedy sought by the Defendant would upend the voir dire process for no reason other than conjecture by the Defendant that she is a victim of unfair bias on the part of anyone who disagrees with her,” prosecutors wrote in their Nov. 4 response to the original motion that was unsealed Friday. “To the contrary, this case shows that the justice system is functioning properly and will continue to function properly to ensure that a fair and impartial jury is empaneled to hear the evidence in this matter.”

The city’s two-term top prosecutor, who will leave office in early January after losing her reelection bid, is charged with two counts of perjury and two counts of making false statements. Prosecutors say she lied about a financial hardship in order to access retirement funds under a federal coronavirus relief plan, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, and then lied on paperwork related to the purchase of two Florida properties. The trial is scheduled for March.

Mosby’s attorneys said the jury pool in Maryland’s Northern District isn’t “sufficiently broad or diverse to shield jurors from the barrage of negative press coverage of this case and State’s Attorney Mosby.”

That district pulls jurors from Baltimore and the counties of Allegany, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Dorchester, Frederick, Garrett, Harford, Howard, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Washington, Wicomico and Worcester.

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A trial in the Southern District would draw prospective jurors from Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s, Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

Prosecutors say the counties that constitute the Northern District total more than 3.8 million people and represent “a broad cross-section of the State of the Maryland and a deep pool from which to draw a jury venire in this district.”

They say the voir dire process, in which jurors are questioned about bias, will be effective in compiling a fair jury panel.

The defense cited jury questionnaires that showed a majority of respondents had heard about Mosby’s charges. But prosecutors say 70% of the respondents said they had heard about it but did not have an opinion, while 36% had not heard of the case at all.

“By the defendant’s own calculation, over a third of the potential jurors had not read or heard anything about the case,” prosecutors wrote.

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Still, defense attorneys maintained, picking from a pool where less people are familiar with her will save time and resources during jury selection.

Attached to the defense motion, according to prosecutors, were abstracts of 62 articles from The Baltimore Sun and The Daily Record and a news archive called NewsBank. But prosecutors said the defense “provides little to no meaningful analysis of these articles to prove that these articles ‘frequently and unfairly malign’ her.”

“In truth, while there have been articles containing negative commentary about the Defendant, the majority of the articles merely recite facts, and do not opine, let alone opine in a way that could be construed as inflammatory or prejudicial,” federal prosecutors wrote.

Defense attorneys responded that while not all of the coverage was negative, pervasive coverage “good, bad or indifferent keeps her in the public’s eye and ensures that the readers of that coverage will have formed an opinion of her.”

The defense team acknowledged that a move to Greenbelt would be more convenient for many of them, as the Reed Smith law firm has offices in Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia. Prosecutors responded that there are no grounds for moving a trial for convenience of defense counsel.

justin.fenton@thebaltimorebanner.com

Justin Fenton is an investigative reporter for the Baltimore Banner. He previously spent 17 years at the Baltimore Sun, covering the criminal justice system. His book, "We Own This City: A True Story of Crime, Cops and Corruption," was released by Random House in 2021 and became an HBO miniseries.

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