Jurors today convicted Marilyn Mosby on two counts of perjury – the outcome of a surprisingly quick trial capping a lengthy Baltimore melodrama that featured a polarizing prosecutor with a national profile and a struggling city enduring yet another elected official charged criminally.
The 43-year-old former Baltimore State’s Attorney faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison for each of the two felony counts of perjury.
In a second federal criminal case, Mosby is charged with making false mortgage applications to buy two vacation homes in Florida.
A date for this trial has not yet been set by U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby.
Following today’s verdict, Mosby told reporters, “I’m blessed,” declining further comment as she left the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.
U.S. Attorney for Maryland Erek L. Barron issued a statement saying, “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.”
The three-day trial, which started Monday, revolved around Mosby’s submission of paperwork to withdraw $90,000 from Baltimore’s Deferred Compensation Plan during the Covid pandemic.
Prosecutors said Mosby lied when she filled out the forms, which allowed city employees to make early withdrawals from their retirement funds under the federal CARES Act.
Under penalty of perjury, Mosby checked a box indicating she had suffered “adverse financial consequences” related to Covid.
But unlike the hundreds of employees in the office she headed, Mosby was never furloughed and actually saw her salary rise from $238,000 to $248,000 that year.
Mosby’s explanation: The LLCs she formed quietly the previous year – Mahogany Elite Enterprises and two affiliates – were unable to operate during the pandemic, and thus formed the basis of her hardship claim.
But prosecutors said the Mahogany Elite companies only existed on paper, with no employees, no clients, no income, no email address or any other indication the LLCs were a viable business.
“What’s zero minus zero? Zero,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Delaney told the jury during his stinging final argument yesterday.
“If you make no money, losing the ability to make no money is not an adverse financial consequence.”
The brief trial was a reputational disaster for Baltimore’s former top prosecutor.
Mosby’s lawyers countered with a convoluted defense that apparently didn’t hold up for the jurors, who returned their verdict after deliberating for about five hours.
The defense basically argued that the companies were real enough for Mosby to reasonably conclude that they could be used to claim eligibility for the program. The form she filled out to make the withdrawals, they said, was overly vague.
“There was absolutely no guidance explaining how these terms apply to her situation,” defense attorney James Wyda said. “She did the best she could.”
He pointed to some costs Mosby incurred in connection with Mahogany Elite – $315 in state fees to register the companies and $144 for a domain name and email.
“Let them belittle the size and magnitude of the loss of Mahogany Travel,” Wyda said, noting the testimony of the chief administrator of the retirement program that a person “could qualify for relief if you experienced a loss of $50.”
But prosecutors sought to portray Mahogany Elite as a phantom business, using Mosby’s own statements made in response to a Baltimore Brew story that uncovered the existence of her LLCs in 2020.
Mosby insisted that the companies were meant to remain dormant while she served as state’s attorney, saying, “I have not taken on a single client for these companies, nor have I taken in any money.”
How would Mosby explain this apparent discrepancy? The defense described an entirely different concept for Mahogany Elite.
Evidence of Tax Evasion
Rather than helping “underserved Black families” go on overseas trips, her lawyers asserted at trial that the business was intended to provide luxury restorative retreats for Black women professionals.
But other than testimony given by Mosby’s close friend, Downtown Partnership of Baltimore President Shelonda Stokes, about a “transformative” trip the two took to Jamaica in 2019, no evidence was presented of a functioning business that suffered financial losses from the collapse of international travel during the pandemic.
All in all, the brief trial was a reputational disaster for the city’s former top prosecutor, who gained fame by criminally prosecuting six city police officers involved in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray from injuries suffered while in police custody. None of the officers were convicted, but Mosby enjoyed widespread publicity from the effort.
This week the government’s forensic accountant testified to the results of a line-by-line analysis of Mosby’s 2019 federal tax filing declaring Mahogany Elite deductions.
The evidence showed that Mosby had misrepresented many of the expenses, listing tax-deductible business costs incurred for family vacations and a trip to an adults-only Cancun resort with her husband, City Council President Nick Mosby.
Government lawyers disclosed that they planned to ask Mosby, if she agreed to testify in court, about these deductions and a $18,000 charitable deduction she claimed on her 2019 taxes, as well as a civil contempt charge last year for violating a gag order in a Baltimore City homicide case.
After hearing this, Mosby elected not to take the stand in her own defense, and the case went to the jury late yesterday.