BALTIMORE -- Marilyn Mosby's public defender told the jury she was innocent as the government slammed the former Baltimore City state's attorney for lying. Both sides laid out their cases during opening statements in Mosby's high-stakes perjury trial.
The case hinges on whether Mosby knowingly lied to withdraw retirement money under the CARES Act, a government law designed to help those devastated by Covid-19.
In his opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Delaney argued, "This case is about a lawyer and public servant who placed her own selfish interests in front of the truth."
Prosecutors said Mosby lied twice to withdraw thousands of dollars to buy two vacation homes in Florida.
"The defendant saw an opportunity. She wanted to purchase real estate…to take advantage of the market. Marilyn Mosby had a problem: She didn't have the money for a down payment," Delaney said.
"…We will argue that the defendant did not qualify to withdraw those funds, and there are facts to substantiate she knew it," Delaney told jurors.
But Mosby's public defender said the former Baltimore City state's attorney lost money on her travel business, Mahogany Elite.
Defense attorney Maggie Grace told the jury, "Mosby was legally permitted to withdraw that money. She did not lie… Ms. Mosby is innocent."
Grace said Mosby just wanted financial security.
"Covid devastated her women's retreat business, and with no assurance of a long-term career in public life. She had to look at what was next," Grace said.
Mosby is expected to testify in her own defense. The opening statements lasted less than an hour.
Mosby's attorney said, "She was not motivated by greed. …Ms. Mosby does not give up very easily."
The government plans to present Mosby's detailed bank and pay statements showing she was consistently earning more than $9,000 every two weeks and never furloughed during the pandemic while other employees, including some in her own office, had to be furloughed and lost money because of COVID.
The government presented three witnesses on Monday. They included a representative from Baltimore City payroll and for the retirement plan.
Mosby is one of 739 Baltimore City employees to take covid hardship withdrawals from their retirement accounts, and one of only three people in the state's attorney's office.
A key witness for the prosecution was Jenna Bender, a forensic accountant with the FBI. She detailed Mosby's financial transactions, including $5,000 she took in deductions for Mahogany Elite.
Bender broke down the transactions from the witness stand including plane tickets, rental cars and restaurant bills.
The prosecution alleges her business was not in operation and had no clients.
Mosby is not charged with any wrongdoing related to her taxes.
Jurors also heard recordings between Mosby and the company servicing her retirement plan.
Mosby asks for guidance and documentation for how to make an emergency withdrawal. She explains she is trying to close on a house and needs information for the plan.
Mosby's defense tried to block jurors from hearing those recordings, but her attorneys were not successful.
Several Mosby supporters were in the courtroom including defense attorney J. Wyndal Gordon.
"There were no limitations as to how Ms. Mosby could spend this money. The eligibility to allow you to receive this money was virtually unlimited," Gordon told WJZ during a break in proceedings.
The trial continues Tuesday morning.
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