A federal judge denied a motion to move the trial against former Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby to Greenbelt Tuesday, finding the defense had not shown news media coverage of the case made it impossible for Mosby to have a fair trial.
U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby made quick work of the request at Tuesday’s motions hearing, concluding that the anecdotal evidence presented by Mosby’s lawyers did not justify a change of venue to the District of Maryland’s southern division.
“It’s not clear to the court how communities in the southern division are somehow immune to media coverage about the case,” Griggsby said.
Mosby’s lawyers made the request for a change of venue in September. Their motion cited information collected from prospective jurors who answered questions in preparation for Mosby’s previous trial date last year.
More than two-thirds of the potential jurors had heard of the case, and one-third had formed an opinion, according to the defense team.
In court on Tuesday, Mosby lawyer Gary Proctor argued that the city’s former top prosecutor would face an uphill battle to seat a jury in the District of Maryland’s northern division, which pulls jurors from Baltimore and Baltimore County. He noted that jurors still remember Mosby’s decision to prosecute the Baltimore police officers who were involved in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray.
“Prosecuting the Freddie Gray officers had nothing to do with this case whatsoever, but a lot of people in our jury pool in the northern division have decided Ms. Mosby is guilty,” Proctor said. “Ms. Mosby is tainted by that.”
Proctor also said the defense may challenge the makeup of the jury if a large proportion of jurors from Baltimore are removed because they are familiar with the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Delaney responded that the northern division also includes farther-flung counties, including some in Western Maryland, and criticized the defense for failing to provide any data showing that jurors from the southern division have heard less about the case.
Griggsby agreed. She also granted a gag order Tuesday prohibiting the defense and prosecution from making public statements that could potentially bias the jury pool.
Prosecutors requested the gag order in September, after Mosby’s lead defense attorney, A. Scott Bolden, said on the courthouse steps that the government’s arguments were “bulls–t” and that state and federal employees and African American politicians like Mosby were at risk of being targeted for prosecution.
Griggsby said those statements caused concern about the fairness of the proceeding. She specifically prohibited statements about the investigation into Mosby being motivated by political or racial animus, a defense claim she previously dismissed.
Griggsby also threatened Bolden with criminal contempt for repeated violations of local court rules.
Mosby is accused of lying about suffering a pandemic-related hardship to withdraw a total of $90,000 from her city retirement account in 2020. Federal prosecutors say Mosby didn’t qualify for the withdrawal because she didn’t lose income or experience a financial loss related to the pandemic.
Mosby put the money toward down payments on two Florida vacation homes, according to the indictment. She is also accused of failing to disclose a $45,000 IRS lien, lying about the source of a $5,000 “gift” from her husband, and making other false statements when she applied for mortgages on the Florida properties.
Mosby’s defense team appears prepared to argue that Mosby suffered a financial loss because she planned to start a travel business aimed at Black women professionals but scrapped the idea when the pandemic caused widespread shutdowns.
Defense filings claim Mosby hoped to hold a launch event for the business, Mahogany Elite Enterprises, in 2020 — though later that year, in response to press inquiries, Mosby said she had no plans to run the business while she was state’s attorney.
Mosby is no longer Baltimore’s state’s attorney. Ivan Bates, a former prosecutor and defense attorney, defeated her in a three-way Democratic primary for the post in July and took over the office at the beginning of the month.
There will likely be several more motions hearings before Mosby’s trial, which is set to begin in late March. The defense and prosecution are already sparring over expert witnesses, a dispute that caused Mosby’s trial to be delayed in September.