Ending breathless speculation about her high-profile case, Marilyn Mosby took the stand yesterday, her testimony coming on the heels of that of her ex-husband, Nick Mosby.
The onetime “power couple” had grown apart, they each attested, but their appearances in her federal mortgage fraud trial bore several similarities.
Like her onetime college sweetheart, Marilyn Mosby was persnickety under questioning by prosecutors.
She pushed back when Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron Zelinsky walked her through her self-description from earlier in the morning, in which she noted that she essentially “headed the city’s largest law firm” as Baltimore state’s attorney.
“You had 200 attorneys, is that right?”
“217,” she corrected him.
“And you had over 400 employees, right?”
“403,” she pointed out.
When it came to the crux of the prosecution’s case – that she must also have known about the couple’s $45,000 tax lien and other debts when she swore on mortgage documents for two Florida properties that she had none – Mosby’s story echoed her ex-husband’s.
“I was a prosecutor. A criminal lawyer. Not a real estate attorney, I had never gone through the home-buying process before,” she said, going on to describe how she trusted the assurances of her mortgage broker, a realtor friend and her then-husband when filling out documents prosecutors say were fraudulent.
Another similarity between her testimony and that of her husband:
Both volunteered embellishing touches that caused a major headache for her defense.
Mosby’s moment came when her attorney, James Wyda, broached her conviction on two counts of perjury in November, a three-day trial in which she elected not to appear as a witness.
Asked if she had a perjury conviction, Mosby replied that she did and planned to appeal it.
“Why are you testifying today?”
“I regret not testifying before. And I want this jury to hear my truth.”
Zelinsky called her statement “deeply problematic” because it implied she “believes there was inadequate evidence to convict her in the earlier trial,” undermining the legitimacy of her past conviction in the eyes of the present jury.
As was the case during Nick Mosby’s turn on the stand, her remark “opened the door,” prosecutors said, giving them the right to question her about her conviction for lying on documents to withdraw money early from her retirement fund to buy the two Florida homes.
This prompted objections from Wyda, who said it would result in a separate “mini-trial.” A 15-minute court recess turned into a two-hour delay.
The lawyers eventually hammered out a bare-bones description of the earlier trial that U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby read to the jury, and the latest crisis passed.
“I went off!”
Mosby’s testimony came on the seventh day of a trial on charges that she lied on mortgage documents to buy two Florida properties.
Testifying before a gaggle of reporters, supporters and other trial watchers, Mosby sought to avoid a second conviction and show that she had no knowledge of the couple’s nearly $69,000 of tax debt or $46,000 IRS lien and that she’d been credibly assured that matters were “taken care of” by her husband and others.
“I did not believe that he would lie about something that could be clearly, publicly verified,” she said, citing the November 2020 press conference her newly elected husband held in which he, falsely we now know, told a Brew reporter the lien was fully paid.
Attempting to show she was not an absentee owner of the Kissimmee house, she related how she was “not happy” about the way the management company was maintaining it for renters, so she flew down and changed the locks and installed security cameras.
But first she recounted in detail for jurors various milestones in her life, ranging from editing the elementary school newspaper in Boston to her miscarriages and medical complications giving birth to her first child.
Expanding on her ex-husband’s tale of a marriage gone sour, Mosby partly blamed their problems on the media, saying “some of the coverage was pretty misogynistic,” with suggestions that “Marilyn Mosby isn’t running the office, Nick Mosby is running the office.”
She said she “succumbed to the pressures” and pulled away from him, “attempting to draw a distinction,” and “we weren’t a team anymore.”
But primarily she dwelt on her ex-husband’s “lax” approach to money management, her voice beginning to rise as she described a letter from the IRS she opened in 2015 that said they owed $45,000 in taxes.
“I went off!” she exclaimed .
“He had not told me that we owe taxes at all. And I was finding out from the mail that we owed a significant amount.”
She described two previous incidents where they went to the their tax advisor and she discovered that “he had unilaterally turned off his taxes.”
“I told him the last time that if he ever did it again. I was out the door,” she said. “So when I seen the notice in 2015, I said to him, ‘What is happening? Is it time for me to go?’”
She said she believed him when he said they were under an installment agreement with the IRS.
“He apologized, and he said he didn’t want to stress me out,” she continued, describing herself as angry but convinced “he was doing it for my benefit.”
“A whole pile of documents”
Mosby said she started thinking about buying a house in 2020 when the couple was cooped up in the same space at home during Covid and the relationship was becoming “toxic.”
“Understanding that the marriage may not get better, I said I wanted to try to establish some sort of financial independence,” she told jurors.
Applying for a mortgage for an eight-bedroom house in Kissimmee, Florida, she said her husband “assured” her that they were up-to-date on the IRS installment agreement. And at the house closing, she remembered signing “a whole pile of documents.”
Asked if she recalled the second-home rider that provided a lower interest rate if the home was going to be a secondary residence, she said she did not.
But she also said she fully trusted her mortgage broker, Gilbert Bennett, “that as long as I spent one day in the property that I would qualify for a second-home mortgage.”
“Nick came clean and told me he was not current, but that he was going to take care of it” – Marilyn Mosby on the IRS tax lien.
Mosby said she learned of the $45,000 IRS tax lien in October 2020 from a reporter who texted her and then confronted her husband.
“Nick came clean and told me he was not current, but that he was going to take care of it.
“And my assurance was actually hearing him off the phone with the president of Harbor Bank, who had stated that he was going to assist us in obtaining a loan and paying off the lien,” she said.
“But he didn’t tell you that the loan had been approved?” prosecutor Aaron Zelinsky pressed.
“No, he did not tell me those exact words.”
“It was my escape”
When Mosby learned of the other property, a condominium on the Gulf of Mexico’s Longboat Key, she said Bennett told her a second-home rider would be possible on it as well.
In a letter she said Bennett requested explaining her use of the Kissimmee house, Mosby wrote that the family had spent 70 days living there.
Prosecutors say that was a lie.
Mosby yesterday called the 70 days “an approximation” and said she and her family were in the house from September 1 – 25 and from October 10 to November 15.
Why did she acquire that $476,000 Longboat Key condo just five months after the first house, purchased for $545,000?
The Kissimmee house was “for me and my girls,” but the Longboat Key condo “was different.”
“It was my place of solitude. It was my escape,” she testified.
The trial continues today in the federal courthouse in Greenbelt, with Marilyn Mosby expected to face more cross-examination from prosecutors.