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Judge allows Mosby defense team to withdraw from perjury case

Marilyn Mosby outside the courthouse following a September hearing at which a federal judge ordered a delay to her trial. (The Daily Record /Madeleine O'Neill)

Marilyn Mosby outside the courthouse following a September hearing at which a federal judge ordered a delay to her trial. (The Daily Record /Madeleine O’Neill)

Former Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s entire defense team received permission to withdraw from her federal perjury and mortgage fraud case Friday because her lead attorney faces possible criminal contempt charges.

U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby found there was good cause for all six lawyers to leave the case and appointed the Office of the Federal Public Defender to represent Mosby moving forward.

Mosby’s trial, currently set for March 27, will likely be postponed. The lawyers now on the case have until Feb. 3 to suggest how they would like to proceed.

Mosby said she understands the change will almost certainly mean delaying her case for a third time.

“I want to rebuild my life, but I do understand and recognize that any new counsel would have to get up to speed,” Mosby said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise opposed the defense team’s request to withdraw and questioned why one of the other lawyers couldn’t take over for Mosby’s lead attorney, A. Scott Bolden.

“The public obviously has an interest in a speedy trial,” Wise said. “This is the third time the conduct of defense counsel has caused that interest to essentially be case aside.”

The defense team sought to leave after Griggsby threatened to hold Bolden in criminal contempt because of his handling of the case.

Griggsby cited a a news conference in September where Bolden stood outside the federal courthouse and said it was “bulls—” that prosecutors blamed the defense for another postponement of Mosby’s trial.

Bolden also said at the news conference that state and federal employees and African American politicians were at risk of being targeted for prosecution if they withdrew money from their retirement accounts under emergency pandemic rules, like Mosby did.

Griggsby said Bolden’s statements violated local court rules related to what lawyers can say about pending cases. He also violated the rules when he quoted confidential juror questionnaires in a Sept. 29 court filing that argued the jury pool was biased against Mosby, Griggsby said. The filing also did not include the signature of any Maryland defense lawyers in another violation of local rules.

RELATED: Judge threatens Mosby defense lawyer with criminal contempt

Griggsby told Bolden last week that she is considering holding him in criminal contempt and may refer his case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for possible prosecution or revoke his admission to district court in Maryland. He has until Jan. 31 to respond to Griggsby’s allegations.

By the end of last week, Mosby’s entire defense team had asked to leave the case. Bolden said he could not continue representing Mosby because the threat of criminal contempt would be a distraction and create a conflict of interest.

The defense team also argued that the other lawyers from Bolden’s firm, Reed Smith LLP, also had a conflict of interest that prevented them from staying on the Mosby case.

“As a general matter, the possibility of criminal sanctions against Mr. Bolden and the divided loyalties that it creates do not only affect Mr. Bolden, but the other Reed Smith attorneys as well,” Bolden wrote in a filing this week.

“Even though they are not subject to the same potential criminal sanctions, any or all of them may be called to act as a witness in Mr. Bolden’s case, as they were involved in the facts giving rise to the Court’s order.”

The other Reed Smith attorneys are Rizwan A. Qureshi, Kelley Miller and Anthony R. Todd.

Two other Mosby lawyers, Gary E. Proctor and Lucius Outlaw, also asked to leave the case. Both said they never intended to play a major role in the defense and could not take over as lead counsel because of scheduling conflicts. Outlaw is a professor at Howard University School of Law and Proctor represents indigent defendants facing the death penalty across the United States, the lawyers wrote in court papers.

Griggsby did not find there was a conflict of interest preventing the defense lawyers from representing Mosby, but found there is good cause in each case to allow the lawyers to withdraw.

She also determined that Mosby is indigent and eligible for representation by a public defender. The Federal Public Defender for the District of Maryland, James Wyda, declined to comment.

Griggsby did not detail how she determined Mosby is eligible for a taxpayer funded lawyer. As the city’s top prosecutor, Mosby made nearly $250,000 per year.

Federal judges do not use a specific income cutoff to determine if a defendant qualifies for a public defender. Local court guidelines required Griggsby to consider “the cost of providing the person and his or her dependents with the necessities of life, the cost of securing pretrial release, asset encumbrance, and the likely cost of retained counsel.”

Mosby left office at the beginning of the year after serving two high-profile terms as Baltimore’s state’s attorney. She lost her campaign for reelection when she placed third in the Democratic primary last year.

The indictment against Mosby accuses her of lying about suffering a pandemic-related financial loss in order to make hardship withdrawals from her city retirement account. She put the $90,000 she withdrew from the account toward down payments on two Florida vacation properties, federal prosecutors say, and made several false statements when she applied for mortgages on the homes.

Mosby faces two counts each of perjury and mortgage fraud.