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Judge in Mosby case updates sealing rules after letters from news organizations

The judge overseeing Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s criminal case has vacated her previous orders sealing documents from public view after a group of news organizations wrote letters objecting to the practice.

The order, filed late Thursday, allows the public the opportunity to object before a document is sealed, as the news organizations requested.

The Daily Record, Baltimore Banner and Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association all submitted letters this week asking U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby to revisit her decisions to seal records and follow procedural rules before blocking public access to documents in the case.

Click this image to read The Daily Record's letter to U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby.

Click this image to read The Daily Record’s letter to U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby.

Those rules include offering time for the public to object and disclosing the reasons for sealing documents if Griggsby decides to do so. Thursday’s order from Griggsby acknowledged both requirements, which have been established in Fourth Circuit precedent.

“The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has held that, in determining whether materials should be filed under seal, the Court must: (1) give the public adequate notice that the sealing of documents may be ordered and (2) provide interested persons an opportunity to object to the requests before the Court makes its decision,” Griggsby wrote.

“If the Court decides to seal documents, it must state its reasons on the record, supported by specific findings, and state its reasons for rejecting less restrictive alternatives.”

Since the beginning of the case against Mosby, the defense team has made two requests to file documents under seal. In March, the defense said a series of documents needed to be sealed because they contained “confidential correspondence between the parties.”

In another instance earlier this month, the defense’s motion to seal another document was itself filed under seal, making it impossible for the public to see the lawyers’ reasons for the request.

Griggsby granted both requests on the same day they were filed and did not make findings on the record as to why the documents should be shielded from public access.

The judge vacated those decisions with Thursday’s order, though the documents will remain temporarily sealed while the public has 14 days to file objections to the documents remaining sealed. The judge will make a decision on whether to unseal those documents and the rationale for that decision after that 14-day window.

Mosby faces two counts each of perjury and making false statements on loan applications. The indictment alleges that Mosby falsely claimed she had suffered financially during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to withdraw money from her city retirement account without incurring a penalty.

She is also accused of failing to disclose a $45,000 IRS lien when she applied for mortgages on two properties in Florida, and of making various false statements in order to secure favorable interest rates.

At a hearing on Thursday, Griggsby denied a request from the defense to dismiss Mosby’s indictment. Mosby’s attorney, A. Scott Bolden, tried to have the case thrown out by arguing that the lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise, has a personal grudge against Mosby.

Griggsby found the defense’s arguments unconvincing and said there was no objective evidence of vindictive or selective prosecution.