Mosby has denied wrongdoing, saying she didn’t defraud anyone.
Her trial was moved from Baltimore to Greenbelt after her lawyer argued that a jury in the city where Mosby was a controversial prosecutor would not be fair. Mosby became well-known nationally for charging six city police officers in the death of Freddie Gray in 2015. Gray died one week after being arrested by police following a foot chase in his neighborhood in April 2015. Mosby failed to convict any of the six.
In closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Zelinsky stressed to jurors that “telling the truth and taking an oath matters.”
“We should not allow Ms. Mosby to lie under oath regardless of her position,” Zelinsky said.
An attorney for Mosby, federal public defender James Wyda, countered that Mosby started a travel business in 2019 while the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office was devastated by the pandemic and that she properly obtained the relief funds by filling out required paperwork.
“This case is about a three-page form and what was in Marilyn Mosby’s mind when she filled it out,” Wyda said. “She qualified, and she reasonably believed she qualified.”
After the verdict was announced, Mosby did not offer much comment other than to say outside the courthouse: “I’m blessed. I’m blessed. I have nothing else to say.” Her defense attorney and a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland declined to comment after the trial.
The trial centered in large part on Mosby’s travel business, Mahogany Elite Travel.
Prosecutors asserted that Mahogany Elite was hardly a business and that it had no clients, no revenue and no records linked to setting up trips.
Mosby didn’t disclose the venture on her 2020 financial disclosure forms submitted when she was state’s attorney, according to prosecutors. And that same year, prosecutors added, Mosby’s spokeswoman told a news outlet, Baltimore Brew, that Mahogany Elite wouldn’t operate while she was in office.
If it wasn’t operating or bringing in money, prosecutors stressed to jurors, it couldn’t be hurt by the pandemic.
“I got a math problem for you,” prosecutor Sean Delaney told jurors. “What’s zero minus zero? Zero.”
Wyda, the head federal public defender in Maryland, told jurors that the pandemic’s impact on Mahogany Elite was best seen in the context of how young the venture was and what rules were applied to the federal relief program.
He said Mosby and a friend took a trip in 2019 that was both restorative and eye-opening. “They brainstormed about monetizing what they experienced on that trip — how to create an escape for professional women of color who needed break,” Wyda told jurors.
As soon as Mosby came home in April 2019, she got to work setting up the business — paying $459 in filing and website fees, according to Wyda. She began traveling, he said, to research possible destinations. “Marilyn Mosby was all in on her travel business,” Wyda said.
“For Ms. Mosby, the pandemic meant a crashing of her dream,” Wyda said. “Covid-19 devastated her business.”
Jurors had to weigh those different versions of Mahogany Elite as they deliberated Mosby’s efforts starting in May 2020 to use the newly created Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Known as the Cares Act, it allowed people to tap into retirement holdings if they had experienced “adverse financial consequences as a result of closing or reducing hours of a business that you own or operate due to SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19,” among other reasons.
On May 26, 2020, Mosby filled out a form, certifying under penalty of perjury that the coronavirus had caused adverse financial consequences, according to trial testimony.
She requested $40,000 in retirement funds, receiving $36,000 after taxes were taken out, according to Wyda. Around that time, Mosby also started shopping for homes in Florida — and used part of the $36,000 on a down payment on a property in Kissimmee. She later got $50,000 of retirement funds for a down payment on another home in Florida.
Under the rules of the Cares Act, Wyda told jurors, adverse financial consequences could be small, people could tap up to $100,000 in retirement funds, and there were no stipulations on how it could be spent.
“Maybe you don’t like that,” Wyda told jurors. “She’s trying to make a good investment. But Ms. Mosby did what the Cares Act allowed.”
But prosecutors hammered at the idea that Mahogany Elite never showed signs of life as an active enterprise. A subpoena for records from the company, according to Zelinsky, yielded no business cards, no letterhead and no records of communications with vendors or potential clients.
“Not a note, nothing,” he said. “Mahogany Elite was not an open and operable business.”
He also noted that at various times, Mosby described the venture differently. In 2020, when the Baltimore Brew inquired about it, a Mosby spokeswoman described it as a “long-term venture … to help underserved Black families who don’t usually have the opportunity to travel outside of urban cities.”
The shifting stated purpose, prosecutors argued, underscored that Mahogany Elite wasn’t operating and was dishonestly cited by Mosby to tap retirement funds.
“She did it because she wanted the money for the houses,” Delaney said. “That’s why she took it. She wanted it and that’s the only way she could get it.”
Mosby also is charged in federal court with two counts of making a false statement on a loan application. It was not immediately clear what effect Thursday’s verdict would have on the timing of a trial in that matter.
In a statement Thursday night, U.S. Attorney Erek L. Barron said, “We respect the jury’s verdict and remain steadfastly committed to our mission to uphold the rule of law, keep our country safe, protect the civil rights of all Americans, and safeguard public property.”
Mosby faces up to five years in federal prison for each perjury count. Her sentencing has not yet been scheduled.
Read the full article here