As Marilyn Mosby Faced Crucial Day In Court, Her Family and Faith Were Front and Center

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It’s been a long time since Marilyn Mosby has fully relaxed and spent enough quality time with her beloved grandmother and two daughters. Having a federal conviction has forced the former Baltimore City state’s attorney to reflect on a lot lately.

Mosby was convicted after two separate federal trials on two counts of perjury in November and one count of making false statements on a mortgage application in February. Prosecutors are recommending a 20-month prison sentence. Mosby’s defense team requested one year to 18 months of probation with no jail or prison.

On Thursday, the judge spared her time behind bars.

Days before the May 23 sentencing, Mosby shared her fears and concerns for the future with Capital B. Knowing that the sentencing guidelines could’ve put her behind bars for up to 40 years, Mosby thought she’d be made an example of. For two terms, she had endured public backlash from right-wing law enforcement officials, as high up as former President Donald Trump, with each reformative effort she implemented in Baltimore.

In recent weeks, there had been a media campaign that criticized the prosecution as overzealous and questioned how Mosby has been characterized. More than a dozen national civil rights and advocacy organizations, including the Fair and Just Prosecution network of elected prosecutors, co-signed a letter calling for President Joe Biden to pardon Mosby, citing that she’s been “unfairly targeted and unjustly convicted.” A presidential pardon application was submitted on Wednesday, the Baltimore Banner reported.

Read More: The Former Prosecutor’s Case, Explained

It’s been exhausting and enlightening being on both sides of the criminal justice system these past eight years.

“The personal sacrifice, and fighting these allegations, and being in this role. I’ve given up so much,” Mosby said during a phone interview. “I’ve sacrificed so much time away from my family and my grandmother who raised me.”

She misses the regular weekends she’d spend in her hometown of Boston with the family’s matriarch, Marilyn Thompson. But during Mother’s Day weekend she got the chance to see the 86-year-old, possibly, for the last time. Thompson is in home hospice.

In the days leading up to Mosby’s sentencing, she had been preparing for the worst outcome: being away from her daughters and in prison. The closest federal women’s facility is in Philadelphia or West Virginia, but in the federal system a convicted person can be transferred to any facility across the country.

“It’s been devastating, it’s been traumatizing, but by the same token … I’ve found beauty in the people who have stepped up” and been Earth angels, the 44-year-old said. Her supporters have thrown her a lifeline when she felt like she was drowning.

The power and support of a “Sisters Circle”

At 34, she ran on a platform of criminal justice reform in 2014 and quickly rose to national prominence in 2015 when she prosecuted six Baltimore police officers connected to the death of Freddie Gray. It was a powerful public display of accountability that was unheard of by a prosecutor at the time. Although the officers weren’t convicted, Mosby built her reputation as a progressive prosecutor dedicated to reform. The investigation into Gray’s death led to a federal pattern and practice investigation and there were changes throughout the entire department.

Halfway into Mosby’s first term, she noticed more Black women across the country rising to the call to lead prosecutor offices. As each woman won their seat, Mosby reached out. She also connected with a smaller group of veteran Black women prosecutors, which included Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy in Michigan. By 2020, the Sisters Circle grew to over a dozen Black women chief prosecutors. That year, some members, including Mosby, Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy in Maryland and then-Judge Diana Becton of California, attended a press conference in St. Louis to support Kim Gardner, the former circuit court attorney, who filed a failed lawsuit against the St. Louis Police Officers Association. The Sisters Circle members signed a letter of support.

Read More: The Thwarted Promise of Black Women Prosecutors

As each year passed, the percentage of elected Black women prosecutors struggled to reach 1%. There are over 2,300 mostly white men elected prosecutors in the country. Over the years, the emotional and mental blows of vitriol, misogynoir, and death threats caused members of the Sisters Circle to gracefully bow out or get pushed out of office.

Mosby and her supporters say she is the latest member battling targets on their backs. Their progressive policies have included advocating for bail reform, declining to prosecute low-level or nonviolent offenses, and providing alternatives to incarceration. During Mosby’s tenure, she implemented policies such as declining to prosecute quality-of-life offenses that disproportionately target people of color. By reducing the mass incarceration rate, Mosby was also advocating to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in prisons that quickly became hotspots at the height of the pandemic.

At the time, those policies seemed defiant to Trump.

Mosby says that following the murder of George Floyd, Trump wanted control of the nationwide protests. Federal lawmakers accused Trump and former U.S. Attorney General William Barr of twisting a legal loophole to deploy federal troops to use tear gas to clear out protesters in Washington, D.C. The loophole is effective when a state’s governor is in agreement with the deployment. Once that plan was executed, Trump went on to target most of the Sisters Circle’s cities for not pressing charges against those arrested, Mosby and civil rights groups say.

Mosby spoke out against sending the troops, and Trump’s supporters launched online and in-person attacks. Two months later, Mosby learned she was under federal investigation, “a move widely perceived as retaliation for her courageous stance in protecting her constituents’ constitutional rights,” supporters wrote in the letter to Biden.

“We expect that political persecutions and malicious prosecutions pursued during the Trump Administration would not continue in the Biden Administration,” the coalition wrote. “This matter should be corrected because it is a miscarriage of justice.”

Capital B has reached out to Mosby’s peers in Maryland and beyond, but many didn’t feel comfortable going on record to talk about the specifics of her case and the federal conviction.

Still, Mosby says her faith has only gotten stronger.

Most of her “day ones” stood firm as they were questioned by law enforcement authorities as powerful as the FBI, she recalled. Those who were called to testify at one or both trials, did. It was in those moments when the coldness and isolation Mosby constantly felt was replaced with a temporary, but familiar feeling of warmth.

“The type of resistance that you receive just being a Black woman in this position — making these decisions and having that type of effect and influence over a system that has built their business model off the backs of Black and brown people — the tax that comes with that, the vitriol, is very different,” Mosby said.

Yet, Mosby has expressed gratitude for her experience as a law enforcement officer, even though she ran for a third term in 2022 and lost. The Maryland Bar Association is also seeking to suspend her law license. She says she is grateful for Baltimore voters who trusted and elected her twice to lead a team of prosecutors who would help to balance the scales of justice. That, Mosby is confident, will be her legacy.

“It’s just me and my girls now”

Through it all, Mosby has been able to inspire her oldest daughter, Nylyn Knicole, to pursue a career in law. The 15-year-old announced at her cotillion earlier this year that she wanted to become a prosecutor. This gave Mosby a glimmer of hope for the future of Black women prosecutors.

“She was never interested in that before,” Mosby told Capital B with glee. “Through all of the trauma of what we’ve experienced, they [my daughters] still find me to be an example, a positive example, for them. And that’s why I’m grateful.”

Mosby, seen with her daughter Nylyn Knicole, said she tried to shield her children during her first trial by keeping them away from the courtroom, but changed her mind during the second trial. “I made a decision that I wanted them to see what strength looks like. I needed them to see what faith looks like in the face of adversity,” she said. (Courtesy of Marilyn Mosby)

The harsh realities of Mosby’s career had been difficult to hide from her daughters. She did her best to protect them for as long as she could, especially after her first election win. Back then, the girls had parental controls set on their electronics to shield them from seeing terrifying headlines.

Ten years later, Nylyn Knicole and Aniyah Naree were teenagers with unlimited access to social media and the news about their mother’s first conviction.

Nylyn Knicole and Aniyah Naree, 13, had to watch their mother’s hurt from afar. They weren’t allowed to attend her first trial. The newly single mother thought keeping her daughters in the dark about her criminal case was the best way to protect them.

But the Mosby girls were being teased by their classmates about their mother’s heavily publicized case and the possibility of her going to prison. Mosby realized it was unfair that she didn’t tell her daughters all that was going on. For the second trial, she had a change of heart and brought them to court.

“They know Mom is fighting for what’s right and what’s just, but they felt like they weren’t a part of it,” Mosby said. “I made a decision that I wanted them to see what strength looks like. I needed them to see what faith looks like in the face of adversity.”

From inside a federal courtroom in Greenbelt, Maryland, the girls heard weeks of testimony and watched their mother get convicted for making false statements on a mortgage application about whether their dad gave their mom a $5,000 gift to lock in a lower interest rate for a condo in Longboat Key, Florida, near Sarasota.

The past four years have been grueling and draining. Mosby divorced her husband in 2023. Nick Mosby has not been accused of any wrongdoing, but he was among the dozens of supporters who showed up in court on Thursday.

“This has impacted me personally on so many different levels,” she said. “It’s just me and my girls now. They’ve been my motivation in keeping my sanity. And between them and God, my faith is everything.”

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