On Her Clemency Quest, Some Say Marilyn Mosby Is Leaving Out Key Facts

Michael Robinson Chávez/The Washington Post
Then-Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby speaks about her indictment on Jan. 14, 2022, in Baltimore.

In Marilyn Mosby’s first stop on her public campaign for a presidential pardon, Baltimore’s former progressive prosecutor sat at a table with MSNBC’s Joy Reid and laid out her situation as she saw it: She prosecuted Baltimore police officers for the in-custody death of Freddie Gray. As political payback, federal officials prosecuted her for financial crimes. Now she could go to prison for 40 years.

“I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong, nothing illegal, nothing criminal,” Mosby, 44, said. “I know this was politically targeted.”

Mosby, who was recently convicted of perjury and mortgage fraud in federal court in Maryland for lying to mortgage lenders in the process of buying two Florida vacation homes and falsely claiming financial hardship to access retirement money, said investigators came after her at the behest of President Donald Trump’s administration.

Mosby has repeated that perspective in subsequent interviews with pop culture media, including the Breakfast Club, and has received support in an online presidential pardon petition backed by more than a dozen national civil rights organizations and Democratic lawmakers within the Congressional Black Caucus.

But ahead of Mosby’s May 23 and 24 sentencing hearings, those who investigated her have pushed back on her version of events.

In court filings, federal prosecutors said Mosby was “charged and convicted because she repeatedly chose to break the law, not because of her politics or policies.” They asked she be sent to prison for up to 20 months, far less than the sentencing maximum of 40 years that Mosby has repeatedly cited and that judges rarely impose.

In response to Mosby’s claims of racial animus, her critics have pointed out that her prosecution was overseen by U.S. Attorney Erek Barron, who was appointed by the Biden administration as the first Black person to hold the job, and that her trial was presided over by Judge Lydia K. Griggsby, the first Black woman to sit on the U.S. District Court in Maryland.

And the original investigation into her finances, which spawned the federal criminal probe, did not come at the behest of any president – but from Mosby herself.

In July 2020, public records show that Mosby wrote a letter to Baltimore City Inspector General Isabel Cumming asking her to open a “full investigation” into her “travel and financial disclosures to determine if there has been any ethical or legal wrongdoing” during her time in elected office.

Since Mosby had become state’s attorney in 2015, her progressive approach to criminal justice – and her status as a young and trailblazing Black woman willing to take on police abuse – earned her national praise and disdain. Mosby believed that a particular series of stories, by a local blog and news station, had painted a “misleading and erroneous” picture of her conduct in office.

She wanted Cumming, an “independent” investigator, to prove the media reports wrong, Mosby said in her letter.

“I am willing to share with you any and all documentation you request, including bank account statements, credit card statements, and inner-office financial ledgers,” Mosby wrote to Cumming. “The people of Baltimore have endured far too many corruption scandals and need to know what is and is not illegal.”

Cumming got to work, she said in an interview, making clear during letter correspondences and a meeting with Mosby that her independent investigation would be comprehensive and guided by their protocol – not the direction of anyone else.

“The case 100 percent started by the letter she wrote to me,” said Cumming, who is Puerto Rican and worked as a public investigator for more than 20 years, including as the assistant inspector general for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and the chief of economic crimes and special prosecutions in Prince George’s County.

“I never heard from a president in my life,” she said. “I just investigated the case I was given.”

During the seven-month probe that followed, Cumming requested a host of financial documents from Mosby – some of which she never produced, according to the final report.

Cumming eventually uncovered discrepancies with Mosby’s taxes, including suspicious tax deductions and missing tax documents, she wrote in the OIG report released in February 2021. Per office protocol, Cumming referred those findings to the federal officials with purview over potential financial wrongdoing, including the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service.

In January 2022, Mosby was indicted by a federal grand jury on perjury and mortgage fraud charges. Prosecutors charged her with lying about her finances to withdraw $90,000 from her city retirement account to buy two vacation homes in Florida. Mosby falsely claimed she was experiencing financial hardships, prosecutors said, so she could access the money through a Cares Act program designed to help people struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.

Prosecutors then said Mosby failed to disclose her financial liabilities when she obtained a mortgage loan for the vacation properties – an eight-bedroom home just minutes from Disney World and a beach condo in Longboat Key. She did not reveal that she had unpaid federal taxes, according to court documents, or that in March 2020 the IRS had placed a $45,000 lien against all properties she and her then-husband, Nick Mosby, owned.

Even before the indictment became public, Marilyn Mosby and Nick Mosby – who had been elected Baltimore City Council president – questioned the ethics of the federal investigation, accusing two federal prosecutors on her case of misconduct.

The two had battled with Mosby over tensions between their offices, and one had donated money to the political campaign of Mosby’s opponent in the race for state’s attorney.

After Barron took over the U.S. attorney’s office, one of the attorneys was demoted and removed from the case, which went before two juries in two criminal trials in November and January, one for the perjury charges and the other for the mortgage fraud allegations. Mosby’s attorneys requested her trial be moved outside of Baltimore to seek an impartial jury and to have separate proceedings. The judge granted both.

In the first trial, Mosby did not testify, and the jury found her guilty on both perjury charges. She opted to testify in her second trial, telling jurors she wanted them to “hear my truth.”

In the second trial, the jury acquitted Mosby of mortgage fraud related to her purchase of the property near Walt Disney, but it convicted her of making a false statement to a mortgage lender to buy the Longboat Key condo.

Mosby’s federal public defender declined to comment for this story but filed court documents in early May asking the judge to sentence Mosby to probation. They argued that she had already been “punished enough.”

“The impact on her life and future due to this prosecution is profound,” her attorneys said in court documents. “Imposing incarceration upon Marilyn Mosby is gratuitous.”

By then, Mosby had begun her media blitz.

Supporters of Mosby, including the NAACP, Congressional Black Caucus and other civil rights organizations, have mirrored Mosby’s arguments: that she was politically targeted for a trumped-up crime that involved withdrawing and spending her “own retirement” funds.

In a news release in early May, NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said Black Americans have “faced wrongful prosecution at the hands of those who seek to promote injustice” and that “the only thing Marilyn Mosby is guilty of is the desire to provide her family with a better life.”

An online pardon campaign led by Native Land Pod had garnered 68,565 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon. The petition outlines politically motivated disputes between Mosby and her opponents under the Trump administration.

“The United States government, a global superpower, is actually coming for me,” Mosby said on the “Breakfast Club” podcast.

The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on Mosby’s publicity tour.

Mosby has asked all those she fought for as state’s attorney to now stand behind her pardon campaign. Her supporters, including prominent civil rights attorneys, have planned a rally at the federal courthouse in Greenbelt shortly before her sentencing hearing Thursday morning.

To Jeremy Eldridge, a defense attorney and former Baltimore City prosecutor, though, Mosby’s efforts feel not only disingenuous but also “dangerous,” tapping into concerns from Black and Brown people and those who are poor or have been targeted by law enforcement.

“She’s playing into these very real undercurrents of the criminal justice system in a way that is not only unfair, but not true,” Eldridge said.

Biden has been vocal about using his clemency powers to rectify what he has said are unjustified racial disparities, mostly in drug sentencing. When asked recently about Mosby, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said she could not comment about individual pardon cases.

Caroline Mala Corbin, a constitutional law professor at the University of Miami School of Law, said that a pardon provides a way to “show mercy or address a miscarriage of justice,” which Mosby has said her case represents.

Procedurally, in most cases people apply to the Office of the Pardon Attorney in the Department of Justice, which evaluates applications and makes a recommendation, Corbin said.

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether Mosby had applied.

But Corbin said even a successful pardon has limits.

“It erases the punishment,” Corbin said, “but not the guilt.”

Katie Mettler/The Washington Post
U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland in Greenbelt.