Trial for ex-Baltimore prosecutor is moved outside the city due to potential juror bias, judge says

BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore’s former top prosecutor, who was charged last year with perjury and mortgage fraud, will be tried outside the city because potential jurors may have been biased by extensive media coverage of the case, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Over two terms as Baltimore state’s attorney, Marylin Mosby gained national recognition for her progressive policies and several high-profile decisions, such as bringing charges against the police officers involved in the 2015 death of Freddie Gray.

But she was defeated in a Democratic primary last year after federal prosecutors accused her of lying about experiencing pandemic-related financial hardship in order to make early withdrawals from her retirement account. She used the money to buy two Florida vacation properties.

With an early November trial date looming, U.S. District Court Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby granted a motion from Mosby’s defense team to move the case out of Baltimore — an unusual occurrence as defense attorneys in even more widely publicized cases have failed to secure such accommodations. Prosecutors said they weren’t aware of any other federal case in Maryland being moved to a different courthouse.

Griggsby said the law sets a relatively low bar for such decisions. She also acknowledged how much attention the case has already received locally.

“Some of that pretrial publicity has certainly cast the defendant in a negative light,” she said during a hearing in Baltimore federal court Friday.

Mosby’s trial will now be held in Greenbelt, a suburb of Washington, D.C., and jurors will be pulled from that part of Maryland.

The judge also agreed to split the case into two trials, one for perjury and one for fraud. Mosby’s attorneys requested separate trials because she may choose to testify in one but not the other.

According to an indictment filed in January 2022, Mosby submitted requests for one-time withdrawals of $40,000 and $50,000, respectively, from Baltimore’s deferred compensation plans in 2020, claiming she experienced financial hardship because of the coronavirus. But she actually received her nearly $250,000 salary that year.

The indictment also says Mosby made false statements in applications for a $490,500 mortgage to purchase a home near Disney World in Kissimmee, Florida, and a $428,400 mortgage to purchase a condominium in Long Boat Key, Florida. She failed to disclose federal tax debt and misled lenders about her intentions for the property near Disney World, saying it would serve as a second home when she actually was making arrangements to rent it out, according to the indictment.

Mosby’s attorneys have argued that COVID-19 had an impact on both financial markets and her personal travel and consulting businesses.

Mired in delays and drama, the case has dragged on more than a year after Mosby lost her reelection bid.

Her previous defense team, which tried unsuccessfully to move the trial to Greenbelt, withdrew from the case after Griggsby accused them of violating court rules. The Office of the Federal Public Defender for Maryland, which is now representing Mosby, filed a renewed motion to have the trial moved.

The judge noted Friday that she has already demonstrated her commitment to combatting the potential for bias within the jury pool and bolstering a positive perception of the justice system in this case.

Mosby, who didn’t appear in court Friday due to a personal matter, has largely kept a low profile since leaving office in January.