Statements that Marilyn Mosby made to The Brew in 2020 have posed one of the biggest hurdles for Baltimore’s former state’s attorney as she faces federal charges that she lied about having experienced Covid-related “adverse financial consequences” related to her side businesses.
Appearing to flatly contradict her current defense narrative are Mosby’s statements to this website in July 2020 that Mahogany Elite Enterprises LLC had neither clients nor revenue and was a long-term venture she didn’t plan to operate until leaving elective office.
Prosecutors referenced the written responses she gave to The Brew in her indictment and have repeated her assertions during the first two days of trial.
In court yesterday, Mosby’s lawyers tried, in effect, to undermine their client’s earlier statements.
According to this new narrative, it was Mosby’s former communications director and other staffers who pushed their reluctant boss to make those responses. And Mosby only agreed to do so because The Brew story posed “a political problem,” the lawyers asserted.
Ex-communications director Lindsay “Zy” Richardson was poised to testify that she “was advising Ms. Mosby on how to respond to the Baltimore Brew’s inquiries, and saying, ‘You need to shut this down because it’s a political problem,’” defense attorney Lucius T. Outlaw III said.
Outlaw sought court permission to allow Richardson to describe Mosby’s initial resistance to telling The Brew that Mahogany Elite would remain dormant until she left office.
Richardson, he promised, would recount how, in multiple meetings over the course of the day, Mosby had insisted her LLC “had been hurt by Covid and that she had every right to move forward” with the planned hospitality and travel business while serving as Baltimore’s top crime fighter.
Prosecutor Sean Delaney objected strongly, saying Richardson’s characterization of Mosby’s response would be hearsay, opening the door to the discrediting of other statements made on her behalf, such as responses to The Brew articles by one of Mosby’s former attorneys, David J. Shuster.
Such problems could crop up “if we introduce a bunch of testimony about Ms. Mosby being strong-armed into making public statements that she didn’t agree with for political reasons,” Delaney warned.
Judging by Richardson’s brief and limited testimony when she got on the stand late yesterday, U.S. District Judge Lydia K. Griggsby agreed with the prosecution after listening to arguments made out of earshot of the jury.
Mosby’s lead attorney, James Wyda, asked Richardson about The Brew’s story disclosing the existence of Mahogany Elite Enterprises and two related entities, Mahogany Elite Travel and Mahogany Elite Consulting.
“Do you recall reading an article by, I believe it was an online media source called Baltimore Brew, that referenced Ms. Mosby’s Mahogany Elite businesses?” Wyda asked Richardson.
Richardson said she did. Answering another question, she said that was the first time she had heard that Mosby owned any businesses.
“Did you see those businesses as bad politics” for her, Wyda asked.
“Yes,” Richardson replied.
“Did you advise her to put out a statement that she did not plan to operate the business while state’s attorney?”
“Did Mrs. Mosby initially agree with that advice?”
“No, she didn’t.”
“Did she ultimately agree?”
Testimony for a Friend
It was one element of a day primarily taken up with the start of defense testimony, with Shelonda Stokes, president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore and co-founder of greiBo Entertainment, the lead-off witness.
Asked to “tell us about yourself,” Stokes described her education and professional accomplishments, noting that she was raised by a single mother in Baltimore.
Calling herself a friend and admirer of Mosby, Stokes said the two of them took a trip to Jamaica in April 2019 that was meaningful and surprisingly “restorative.”
“We literally sat on the beach all the time. We talked, we prayed, we laughed,” Stokes recalled.
The experience inspired the two to brainstorm about starting a business that could offer a similar travel experience to other successful Black women.
“To create a place of restoration and really deal with what I’m feeling right now,” Stokes said, adding, “I’m feeling in a place that’s not comfortable to me.”
Asked whether she started the business with Mosby after they returned or had any formal role in it, Stokes said she did not.
Stokes said she participated in meetings about the companies, which were incorporated by Mosby a later month on May 29, 2019, without offering further details.
Harsh Questions Promised
The day ended on an ominous note for Mosby, who is weighing whether to take the stand today, according to her lawyers.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Zelinsky listed five areas the prosecution planned to ask her about during cross-examination.
Among those areas is the $7,300 she deducted from her federal income taxes in 2019 as Mahogany Elite business expenses.
On the first day of the trial, a forensic accountant presented an analysis that insinuated multiple instances of tax fraud on Mosby’s part.
The accountant testified that expenses that Mosby had incurred in her personal life or as state’s attorney were listed under Mahogany Elite, a business that prosecutors allege wasn’t operating.
Another area prosecutors would likely probe, if she testified, involves $18,000 in charitable donations that Mosby claimed in her 2019 tax return.
They would also ask about an allegedly “untruthful statement” that Mosby made to secure a lower interest rate on the house she had purchased in 2020 in Kissimmee, Florida.
In that “second-home rider” letter, according to prosecutors, Mosby said that she had been living in a Florida home for 70 days when she had been seen in photos back in Baltimore.
Prosecutors will also bring up the time last year when Mosby was held in contempt of court for violating a gag order by making comments on social media about Keith Davis Jr.’s criminal case.
These matters, Zelinsky said, would bear on Mosby’s “credibility.”