Judge permits Marilyn Mosby’s entire defense team to quit case

U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby allowed all six of Marilyn Mosby’s criminal defense lawyers to withdraw from her perjury and mortgage fraud case, issuing her ruling Friday morning.

Griggsby’s decision comes after all of Mosby’s defense attorneys requested to withdraw from the case earlier this month after Griggsby found lead defense attorney A. Scott Bolden had violated court rules and procedures. Griggsby threatened Bolden with criminal contempt of court, including a possible criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland.

The other members of Bolden’s firm— Rizwan Qureshi, Kelley Miller and Anthony Todd, all of Reed Smith LLP — also asked to withdraw, claiming Bolden’s disciplinary hearing also created a conflict of interest for them, and that they would not be able to give Mosby their full attention in the runup to her March trial. Mosby had two pro bono lawyers, Lucius Outlaw and Gary Proctor, who both asked to be removed because they would not be available for the trial dates and were only acting in a supporting capacity to begin with.

Griggsby did not find a formal conflict of interest existed for the Reed Smith team, but determined one could exist and that a distracted defense team would present challenges. Griggsby ruled that the lawyers had demonstrated good cause to be removed from the case.

Mosby, who rarely speaks about her case or her lawyers, said in court she no longer believes the Reed Smith team could provide her Constitutionally sufficient representation.

“I feel like their interests are clearly now adverse to my interests, and I need conflict-free counsel,” Mosby said.

Qureshi, who spoke on behalf of the Reed Smith attorneys, said the decision to withdraw from the case has nothing to do with Mosby’s innocence. Bolden did not speak during the hearing. The three other Reed Smith lawyers maintain they are conflicted out because they have to serve as witnesses to Bolden’s contempt issue.

“We maintain Ms. Mosby’s innocence and the motion is regrettable,” Qureshi said.

Mosby, the former two-term Baltimore state’s attorney, is charged with two counts each of perjury and mortgage fraud. Federal prosecutors claim she lied about experiencing adverse financial conditions in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic in order to make two early withdrawals from her city-managed retirement account. The money she withdrew, about $80,000, was used to make down payments on two Florida vacation properties: An eight-bedroom rental near Disney World and a condo on the Gulf Coast.

Prosecutors claim Mosby failed to disclose a federal tax lien against her and her husband on either mortgage application, lied about her intended use for the Disney-area home, and lied about having lived in Florida when purchasing the condo. The reason for doing so would be to get more favorable loan terms, prosecutors have said in court fillings.

Griggsby appointed the Federal Public Defender’s Office to represent Mosby, which is what Baltimore’s former top prosecutor had requested. To appoint a public defender, Griggsby had to find Mosby is indigent. Before leaving office at the end of 2022, Mosby was receiving roughly a quarter-million-dollar annual salary as state’s attorney. Griggsby had previously approved government funds for Mosby to hire expert witnesses, finding she could not afford them otherwise.

Prosecutors asked Griggsby to only remove Bolden from the case, meaning one of the other Reed Smith lawyers would head the defense. Mosby said Friday that her relationship with Reed Smith was always predicated on Bolden serving as her lead defense lawyer.

Mosby’s trial appears to be headed for its third postponement, something she said she is aware of.

“I want to rebuild my life, but I do understand and recognize any new counsel would have to get up to speed on this case,” Mosby said.

Griggsby asked Federal Public Defender James Wyda and Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo Wise to confer about the next steps in the case. The next hearing is set for Feb. 3 where a decision on whether to keep the current trial schedule is anticipated.

“A delay is certainly not something this court would welcome,” Griggsby said.

As for Bolden, he has until Jan. 31 to explain to Griggsby why she shouldn’t punish him for using profanity to criticize the court, why he divulged confidential juror information in a legal motion, and why he filed that same motion without a Maryland lawyer’s signature. Based in Washington, D.C., Bolden is not licensed to practice in Maryland and needs to co-file all papers with someone who is, per the court’s rules of attorney conduct.

The contempt proceedings against Bolden are separate from Mosby’s criminal case.

Bolden’s withdrawal as lead attorney likely ends an oftentimes-messy, contentious relationship between prosecutors and Mosby’s defense counsel, with both sides accusing the other of not dealing in good faith. The feud began with Bolden accusing the government of targeting Mosby for prosecution because of political and racial animus. His effort to get the case dismissed last April on those grounds failed, with Griggsby finding there was no evidence to support those claims.

Nonetheless, Bolden and Mosby stood on the courthouse steps afterwardand said Griggsby had accepted most of their arguments as factual, despite Bolden saying in court he had no evidence Wise had acted out of racism in vindictiveness. Bolden and Mosby’s claims of racism drew comparisons to the behavior of former President Donald J. Trump, who regularly resorts to personal attacks instead of focusing on substantive issues.

“It’s all a plan to delegitimize anyone who has the temerity to question her behavior,” Wise said in court last April about Mosby and Bolden’s defense strategy. “It’s just like what Trump did.”

Bolden regularly accused the government of failing to turn over exculpatory evidence, while also failing to turn over required expert defense witness testimony, leading to the case’s second postponement. When Griggsby ordered that continuance in September, on the eve of what was supposed to be jury selection, a frustrated Bolden stood again on the courthouse steps and called the delay “bulls***” to reporters, and that it was the government’s fault despite his team’s failure to adequately disclose the expert witness testimony.

In those same remarks, the D.C. lawyer continued to suggest a racist prosecution was at play, warning Black government employees that they might be Wise’s next target. Bolden apologized in court the next day.

Prosecutors sought a gag order following that news conference, which Griggsby issued earlier this month. Specifically, Griggsby’s order prohibited defense lawyers from claiming there was any racist or political motives behind the prosecution.

In late September Bolden filed court papers divulging confidential juror information, which seemed to be the final straw for Griggsby. She issued an order the following day requiring Bolden’s filing be struck from the record and for him to explain why he did that. In January, when Griggsby ruled that Bolden had violated court procedures and could be held in criminal contempt, she offered her first comments on how his behavior had effected her, describing Bolden’s conduct as “hurtful.”

“It certainly was not my finest hour,” Bolden said in court then.

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