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Baltimore news organizations ask judge to unseal records in Mosby case

Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby addresses the media outside her office on a day after her indictment on federal perjury charges on Friday, Jan. 14, 2022. (Jerry Jackson/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

The Daily Record, The Baltimore Sun and The Baltimore Banner have asked the judge handling Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s federal criminal case to unseal records that the news organizations say should be public.

The motion comes two weeks after The Daily Record wrote a letter to U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby asking her to revisit the decision to seal certain documents in the case.

Griggsby quickly vacated her prior sealing motions but left the documents temporarily shielded from view while the public had an opportunity to intervene. The news organizations’ motion is the only objection to have been filed in the case as of Thursday.

“It is difficult to conceive of many cases in this area with a greater public interest in transparency than this one,” the lawyers for the news outlets wrote in the motion.

“This is a highly public criminal trial assessing the potential fraud and perjury of not merely a political figure, but the chief law enforcement official for the City of Baltimore.”

The motion argues that there is a “strong presumption” that criminal case records will be open to the public. That presumption can only be overcome when a significant government need outweighs the public’s interest in transparency.

“A criminal defendant’s embarrassment—or reputational concerns—are insufficient as a matter of law to overcome the presumption of open records and hearings, and the sealing orders in this case should, respectfully, be reversed,” the lawyers wrote.

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 parties to the case will have an opportunity to respond to the motion to unseal records.

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.

Mosby has denounced the charges as politically motivated and untrue.