It’s been one of the biggest questions looming over Baltimore politics: Will Marilyn Mosby run for a third term as state’s attorney? Her political future has been uncertain for months, ever since she was indicted in January on perjury charges and later deleted her social media accounts without explanation.
In an exclusive interview with The Baltimore Banner, Mosby broke her silence on the matter and said she will kick off her re-election bid Tuesday with the release of a three-minute video declaring her candidacy.
The announcement hits three days before the filing deadline, but there have been hints it was coming. Mosby’s campaign publicized a fundraiser earlier this year, and cellphone video circulated of her addressing supporters outside her home.
She faces challengers Ivan Bates and Thiru Vignarajah in the primary. Mosby defeated the two men with 49% of the vote four years ago. Defense attorney Roya Hanna announced she will run as an independent.
The primary election will be held two months before Mosby is scheduled to stand trial in federal court in Baltimore on charges of perjury and making false statements on loan applications. She’s accused of falsely claiming financial hardship from the coronavirus to withdraw from her retirement savings at reduced tax penalty, and of failing to disclose a federal tax lien when applying for a new mortgage. The transactions are related to her purchase of two homes in Florida worth more than $1 million combined.
In a wide-ranging interview with The Banner, Mosby touted her conviction rate, community service and work to free men wrongfully convicted. She discussed what motivates her to seek re-election despite the toll of the job and the limited role she believes her office has in reducing gun violence in the streets. She also expressed confidence that she will beat the federal charges, as she did the lawsuits and investigations of the past.
“I’ve always prevailed. Every single time,” she said.
She spoke to The Banner on Monday at the R. House food hall in Remington, accompanied by her friend Robyn Murphy of JRM Consultancy. Her answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
This job has been trying for you personally and for your family. Why do you want to run again?
“I’m committed to the citizens of this city. I’m committed to justice. This is very personal to me because I think that what we’ve been able to do is be a model for progressive criminal justice reform in this country. When you recognize the sacrifices that have been made by me, my family — it’s bigger than me. …
“There still remains a lot more work to do.”
Your spokeswoman said you started the Mahogany travel and hospitality businesses as a possible career change. How close were you to leaving public office?
“I have to be careful about what I say only because of the pending trial. I’m going to leave that topic [Mahogany businesses] alone.
“Was I dabbling with the idea of leaving public office? Yes, I was. It takes a lot. … But I still have that burning desire to make a difference, so I’m not ready. Without going too far into the personal stuff, public service — at least when you are at the forefront of reform the way that I am — you get beat up every day. It takes a toll on my children. I have had second thoughts, but I’m also a woman of faith, and I feel like I’m not ready [to leave public office]. There’s still so much more we have to do.”
Is there a moment or interaction from the last four years that affirmed why you do this job?
“You look at my guys [exonerees]. I was in here the other day, and they were all here. Twelve innocent Black men who cumulatively served 300 years in prison for crimes they did not commit. I started that unit [Conviction Integrity Unit] that’s being modeled all across the country.
“I get affirmation from little kids. When I went into the school the other day, this little boy presented me with a card. He looked at me, and he looked into my soul. He said, ‘Marilyn Mosby, my parents said I would one day meet you.’ … That touched me.”
How did the pending federal charges affect your decision to seek re-election?
“I’m not going to allow that to stop me, right? One of the things we know about living in a place like Baltimore is that we’re resilient. We can take anything. I’ve gotten a lot of the hate mail, the death threats, the mocking, the ridiculing and all that comes with it. I’m built for this. I’m not going to allow them to define the work of this office.”
You have sought to be a reform prosecutor by dismissing nonviolent offenses such as drug possession and prostitution while also working to appear tough on violent crime. Can one accomplish both?
“We’ve proven that you can do both. You can take a holistic approach. It’s not just about case processing. That’s what prosecutors’ offices have been for far too long. And what we’ve been able to show is that you can take a holistic approach and that you can still be a model for progressive reform. You can still break the school-to-prison pipeline. …
“You look at our conviction rates, and we go after bad guys. I don’t care if I have to go after you a million and one times. You hurt the citizens of this city, you’re going to be held to account. But by the same token, I have a responsibility to zealously advocate for those who are wrongly convicted and incarcerated.”
Should voters hold you, or any state’s attorney, accountable for the level of violence in the city?
“I would argue I’m one of the stakeholders in the criminal justice system, and there has to be partnership and there has to be stability, and we haven’t had it. For anybody to point fingers at one stakeholder, that’s unreasonable …”
“I’m not saying I have no sort of role in ensuring or wanting our communities to be safe. But if you’re going to hold me accountable, then look at the job and the role that I play. That’s how you can tell me whether or not I’m effective.
“If you’re going to judge me, judge me on my record. Judge me on the things that I can control. And this is what I can control: My prosecutors getting in there every day and holding violent individuals accountable.”
It seems like you’re saying voters should hold you accountable for what happens inside the courtroom, not for the homicide rates in the streets? “Correct. Yes, that’s my job.”
You know your two primary opponents. Will you debate them? “I don’t know yet.”
Your criminal trial is scheduled for a date after the primary election. How can a voter trust that by casting a ballot for you, you will be able to serve?
“I’m confident about the strength of my case, and I’m confident that I’m going to prevail the way I always do. Those who support me, recognize that fact, too. I beat the lawsuits, the State Board of Elections, the OIG [Office of Inspector General] … I’ve always prevailed. Every single time.”
Why did you take down your social media accounts?
“It’s rebranding. You’re going to see it. It’s going to be back up.”
Can you explain why there have been no state level charges in the Gun Trace Task Force case?
“That has not been my primary focus. A number of them were already prosecuted federally, and I felt like that was sufficient.”
If you were to win re-election and beat your criminal case, are you able to move on and cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore? “Of course.”
How can you repair the relationship between your office and the police. Or, do you want to?
“There is no chasm. I don’t know why there’s a perceived chasm between my office and the police department. Just look at the data. You can see we work together with the police department just based off the convictions. What we also do is we have one standard of justice regardless of race, sex or occupation. So we’ve convicted more than 30 officers since Freddie Gray who violated the rights of citizens in this city.”
The Keith Davis Jr. case has been a subject of much debate in the city. In addition to people who say Keith Davis is innocent, there are those who say that after four prosecutions the case is too compromised for us as a city to have faith in a conviction. Do you intend to go to trial and why?
“I do not give up. I am a fighter, and I am fighting for [the victim] Kevin Jones. That’s who I fight for: the citizens who are violated in the City of Baltimore, and that’s what I’ll continue to do, until justice says otherwise. … I’m going to continue to fight for Kevin Jones.”
Your challengers Ivan Bates and Roya Hanna have both said they will resume prosecutions for drug possession and prostitution in some capacity. Do you still believe your decision to stop prosecuting people for those crimes is best for the city?
“If you look at the data that Johns Hopkins put out with the independent commissioned report, what we know is there is less than a 1% recidivism rate. And 80% of the individuals that were averted – that arrests were averted – would have been Black men. So there’s a very clear distinction between my policies that have nothing to do with public safety, based off of the data, and my desire to ensure racial equity in the criminal justice system – and someone who discounts that information.
“That’s a very clear distinction between me and my opponents.”