Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn Mosby filed her latest state ethics statement, reporting no gifts to a legal defense fund set up for her and her husband, the Baltimore City Council President, Nick Mosby.
The fund, which opened for donations in mid-2021, was created so the power couple could defend themselves against a federal criminal tax investigation. Prominent supporters and community leaders encouraged contributions, Facebook posts and appearances at press conferences.
But whether anyone made a donation remains a mystery.
Disclosure of Mosby’s state ethics — specifically a section dealing with gifts — might have been one of the few windows into such a fundraiser. The submitted form must list all donations from multiple types of key individuals as described by state regulations.
Specifically, elected officials must disclose on their annual ethics forms gifts from individuals or entities that do business with the state, those regulated by the state, and registered lobbyists. The state ethics law requires listing gifts over $20. Two or more donations with a cumulative value of $100 from one person or entity must also be declared.
A. Scott Bolden, Mosby’s attorney, did not respond to a request for comment. The chairman of the State Ethics Commission declined to comment and referred questions to the commission’s general counsel, who did not respond to a request for comment.
After a hearing on Thursday, Mosby said the legal fight, still in the preliminary stages, had already been costly.
“Here we are: hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt in attorneys’ fees, fighting a battle,” she said, speaking to the media outside the Baltimore federal courthouse.
A 1993 notice from the Maryland State Ethics Commission outlined rules regarding legal defense funds, as did a 2017 ethics commission guideline on gifts.
The commission issued the 1993 notice at the request of the Sheriff of St. Mary’s County at the time. He wanted to solicit donations to support a $1.5 million libel lawsuit against a southern Maryland weekly. The ethics commission concluded that its fund should be subject to “significant constraints” because the donations would be considered gifts under state law.
High-level Mosby supporters promoted the Mosby’s legal defense fund. City defense attorney Warren Brown posted messages on Facebook encouraging donations. Willie Flowers, president of the NAACP Maryland State Conference, appeared at a press conference in October and encouraged donations. Flowers said the civil rights organization would donate money to the fund.
“We plan to give as much as we can,” he said at the time.
Marilyn Mosby’s ethics disclosure on Wednesday came the day before the state’s attorney filed for the Democratic nomination for a third four-year term, state records show. Nick Mosby’s ethical disclosure is not due until January 30.
Although neither of the Mosbys have been charged with tax crimes, Marilyn Mosby was federally charged in January with two counts of perjury and two counts of misrepresentation on loan applications to purchase two properties in Florida: an eight-bedroom home near Disney World and a condo on the state’s Gulf Coast. Nick Mosby hasn’t been charged with anything.
Federal prosecutors say Mosby perjured herself by falsely alleging financial hardship because of the coronavirus to make early, penalty-free withdrawals from her municipal retirement savings under the federal CARES Act. They also accused her of failing to disclose a federal tax lien on a mortgage application for a property and of claiming the home near Orlando as a second home to secure lower interest rates when she had lined up a business to operate on a rental basis.
Mosby maintains she is innocent and says she intends to clear her name at a trial scheduled for September 19.
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The state’s attorney came under scrutiny earlier this year when her campaign finance report showed she directed campaign funds to her law firm. criminal defense attorney, Bolden. However, the Maryland State Board of Elections found that she had provided sufficient documentation to substantiate the expenses in question and their connection to her candidacy.
During its investigation into the couple’s campaign expenses, the State Board of Elections asked about the legal defense fund. Attorney James J. Temple, who responded on behalf of the couple, said that as of March 1, “there has been no payment to any law firm engaged by the nominee or the committee by a fund of legal defence”. Temple did not say whether the fund collected donations.
The defense fund website invites visitors to consider donations of $10, $50, $100, $250, $500, or $1,000.
Bruce L. Marcus, a Greenbelt defense attorney who in 2012 chaired a panel established by the legislature to recommend changes to Maryland’s campaign finance laws, said, “In a way Generally, amounts paid to an elected official should be considered disclosed under state ethics laws. ”
Based on the 1993 opinion of the State Ethics Commission, donations to a legal defense fund are strictly regulated. State law prohibits nearly all gifts from “controlled donors,” people or businesses that work with, are regulated by, or have “private interests that may be affected by a public official’s agency.” performance of his duties by an official”.
In the case of the former sheriff, the commission said vetted donors would include people with pending cases before the sheriff’s office, people who provide services or materials to the office, or attorneys, inmates or other people in the criminal justice system. It’s unclear whether those restrictions would apply in Mosby’s case to prevent him from accepting legal defense fund donations from other Baltimore attorneys, such as defense attorneys who represent people sued by his office.
Mosby’s ethics form described a giveaway in 2021: $971.90 in expenses related to a conference in Maine. Mosby attended the Black Women Lead Retreat, funded by the Vera Institute of Justice, an organization that advocates for criminal justice reform. Mosby’s disclosure said she participated in discussions about “the challenges and struggles that are unique to black women leaders in our country in the criminal justice field and as elected black women leaders.”