Family members of victims of police violence, along with activists who have been advocating on behalf of those victims, are challenging federally-indicted Baltimore City State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s progressive bonafides this week on social media, in court, and in front of City Hall.
Mosby has made claims that her indictment—related to a number of tax and mortgage issues and interconnected perjury charges—is a political attack on her and her “progressive prosecutor” policies. To hear the State’s Attorney tell it, as she did on MSNBC last month, she is “fighting for racial justice in the criminal justice system, fighting to end mass incarceration in a state where we have the largest incarceration of Black people in the entire nation,” and the feds are coming after her for it.
Two high-profile cases in particular complicate Mosby’s claim that her focus on police corruption and getting people out of prison is why she was indicted. First, there is the ongoing prosecution of Keith Davis Jr., a Baltimore man shot by police in 2015 and later charged with a murder, and who is set to be prosecuted by Mosby’s office for that murder for a fifth time in May. There is also the police killing of Tyrone West, for which none of the dozen-plus cops involved were charged. Mosby assured the West family back in 2016 she would reopen the case if additional evidence came to light.
Free Keith Davis Jr.
On Monday, March 7, criminal justice advocacy group Campaign Zero released an elaborate video incorporating trial audio that breaks down some of the problems with the case against Keith Davis Jr. and calls attention to Mosby’s role in ignoring—and even perpetuating—those problems.
Battleground Baltimore has covered the Keith Davis Jr. case extensively. Davis was chased by police who said he attempted to rob a cab driver in Baltimore City early in the morning on June 7, 2015. Davis ran from the police who fired dozens of shots at him, hitting him three times. Davis was charged with a number of crimes, including gun possession, because police said they retrieved a gun near his unconscious body.
Davis was eventually found not guilty (the cab driver in question said Davis was not the man who tried to rob him) and only one of the many charges against him stuck: gun possession. Then, after his trial, police claimed they connected the gun they said Davis possessed to a murder that happened the same morning he was shot. They charged him with the murder of a man named Kevin Jones. Since 2016, Davis has been tried for this murder four times—each trial has either resulted in a hung jury or a guilty verdict that was later overturned. He has been in jail since 2015 while weathering COVID-19 and other health issues that have resulted from police shooting him multiple times.
For those advocating for Davis—including his wife, Kelly Davis, Campaign Zero’s DeRay Mckesson, and a growing network of grassroots organizers in Baltimore City—his unending ordeal is a clear example of malicious prosecution in a case full of misconduct (including discredited jailhouse informants, undisclosed video evidence, and more) and questionable investigative science.
The Campaign Zero video released on Monday primarily deals with some of the realities of the handgun police said Davis possessed when they shot him, which Davis’s lawyers have argued was planted on him.
The video begins with a clip of a student asking Mosby about Keith Davis Jr., and about questionable prosecutions in general.
“Is there a possibility, with your office rushing to keep a high conviction rate, [that you’re] not always convicting the right people, such as in the case of Keith Davis Jr.?” the student asked Mosby.
“I know the facts of the case and at some point that case will be closed and you can then evaluate the evidence yourself,” Mosby responds.
The video then asks viewers to do just that: Evaluate the evidence. Namely, it stresses that even ballistics experts said the gun was never fired and the only connection between the gun and the murder is the ballistics expert “eyeball[ing]” bullet casings found near Kevin Jones’s body. Additionally, there was no evidence found that contained both Davis’s and murder victim Kevin Jones’s DNA on it.
Davis goes to trial for the fifth time in May, now with an additional attempted murder charge added in May 2021 based on a fight in prison that happened nearly a year before. The story is incredibly complicated. Read Baltimore Magazine’s “The Many Trials of Keith Davis Jr.” for a comprehensive look at this case.
Then, on Tuesday, March 8, Davis’s lawyer Deborah Levi filed a motion to dismiss the charges against him based on “vindictiveness and personal and political animus” on the part of Mosby and her office.
“During the last seven years, Ms. Mosby has tried and failed to secure a conviction against Mr. Davis. She has proceeded with vindictiveness and personal and political animus, and in doing so, she has denied Mr. Davis his right to due process. As a result, the indictments against Mr. Davis must be dismissed,” the motion said.
Examples provided in the motion include the fact that Davis was only charged for murder after he was acquitted of the vast majority of the charges related to the alleged robbery; that Mosby gave the middle finger to a Keith Davis Jr. supporter who yelled out, “Free Keith Davis Jr.,” and then lied about giving the middle finger (as Battleground Baltimore reported); and that Mosby, on local rap radio station 92Q, called Davis “a convicted murderer,” which is easily disproven by the fact that the trial for the murder Mosby claims Davis was “convicted of” is still pending. If he were convicted, he would not be having another trial.
The indictment also questions the timing of that second charge—for attempted murder, tied to a fight in jail—against Davis.
“Ms. Mosby indicted Mr. Davis for Kevin Jones’s murder only after he was acquitted of the robbery. She did the same thing with the jailfight attempted murder,” the motion said. “Courts across the country have dismissed criminal prosecutions where, as here, the facts indicate that the defendant would not have been charged but for his favorable ruling in another matter.”
The motion also notes that, according to witnesses, the fight was started by the person Davis is now being accused of attempting to murder; moreover, no weapons were involved, and prison guards who witnessed it said it was “a closed-fist fight.”
Also mentioned in the motion is Baltimore City’s Deputy State’s Attorney Janice Bledsoe, who in 2017 text messaged reporter and podcast host Amelia McDonnell-Parry and offered her unsolicited opinion on the character of Kelly Davis, Keith Davis Jr.’s wife. “She treats her kids like crap,” Bledsoe texted. “She yells profanity at them and screams at them.”
Bledsoe, the motion explained, also disclosed private medical information about Kelly Davis to McDonnell-Parry.
Battleground Baltimore has also learned from a number of sources that these sorts of claims about Keith Davis Jr. and his wife have been mentioned by Marilyn Mosby. The federally-indicted Baltimore City State’s Attorney has, over the years, intimated in private conversations to powerful Baltimoreans and other influential figures that there is much more information about Keith Davis Jr. than is publicly known, and that said information supposedly proves he committed the murder of Kevin Jones. This information, which Mosby has implied she knows, somehow, has not been introduced in any of Davis’s numerous trials.
A footnote in the motion to dismiss Davis’s case notes that the motion itself is based on a similar motion Mosby’s lawyers filed in her own case, where she claimed federal prosecutors had animus towards her: “To any extent that Marilyn Mosby or her prosecutors, who work under her direction and authority, assert that this Motion is unfounded, inappropriate, or not an action at law, this Motion is in large measure modeled after and take from the Motion to Dismiss that Ms. Mosby filed on her own behalf in her own criminal prosecution for perjury.”
In response to the motion, Mosby filed a gag order and a request to change the venue of Davis’s upcoming trial: “This crime has become one of the most high-profile crimes in recent Baltimore history. In the wake of criminal justice scandals and controversies all over the country, the defense team has aimed to paint this case as a case of police cover up, government conspiracy, and prosecutorial misconduct, despite the fact that such allegations could not be farther from the truth,” the request for a gag order said.
Justice For Tyrone West
On Wednesday, March 9, the sister of Tyrone West, Tawanda Jones, and many others gathered in front of City Hall to remind the public that State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby had promised to take a closer look at West’s death at the hands of more than dozen Baltimore Police and Morgan State University cops.
“I met with Marilyn Mosby four years ago,” Jones said on Wednesday night in front of City Hall. “She said, ‘If you get any additional information, I’ll be more than glad to sit down with your family.’”
Mosby was elected to the position of State’s Attorney in 2014 and later had promised the West family she would reopen the case—which happened under her predecessor Greg Bernstein—if “new evidence” came to light. Indeed, Mosby’s 2014 victory was, in part, the result of dogged protesting by the West family, who all but chased Bernstein out of town—something Jones reminded everybody of in front of City Hall earlier this week.
“I want to be clear that my family is the reason she got elected into office. We supported her, we lobbied behind her and everything. We told them ‘Get Greg Bernstein out of office,’” Jones said.
As far as Jones is concerned, new evidence in the case has come to light over the past few years. The West family has had two independent autopsies performed on West to challenge the original autopsy, which ruled that West’s death was due to a heart condition. The independent autopsy (and, later, a second independent autopsy) said that West died of “positional asphyxiation”—suffocation resulting from the way that police restrained West. Eyewitnesses to West’s death said that officers beat and kicked West, pepper-sprayed him, and tackled him to the ground and held him there.
“As poor as I am—because I am a schoolteacher making pennies—I went into my purse and got out $50,000 to have my brother’s body exhumed,” Jones said.
That original autopsy was performed by Maryland’s Chief Medical Examiner at the time David Fowler, who gained national attention during the trial of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd. Fowler was a witness for Chauvin’s defense and, as Battleground Baltimore reported, he “all but dismissed the knee Chauvin pressed into George Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds as reason for Floyd’s death, and suggested exhaust from cars, Floyd’s heart condition, and his use of drugs were major factors.”
Put simply, Fowler, the medical examiner in West’s case, has since been shown to exhibit a troubling and persistent bias towards police. This is the second piece of “new” information, according to the West family, that should be cause for reopening West’s case. After the Chauvin trial, more than 400 medical pathologists called attention to Fowler’s work and potential police bias.
“David Fowler is the reason not only Tyrone West’s family didn’t get accountability,” Jones said.
Additionally, a disturbing video from 2016 resurfaced in 2020 that showed Baltimore Police Officer Jorge Omar Bernardez-Ruiz kneeling on a man during an arrest. The video echoed the killing of West, as well as the beating of Abdul Salaam, who was stopped by many of the same officers who stopped West, pulled out of his car, and put in a “hog-tie position.” Salaam was awarded $70,000 in a civil suit in 2016. Bernardez-Ruiz was involved in both West’s and Salaam’s police brutality cases.
“My brother was murdered. And the cover-up was worse than the beating. My brother was a father. He was everything to my family. He was nothing to those animals,” Jones said. “And then they wonder why you had the uprising?”
“MORTGAGE FRAUD IS INVESTIGATED BY THE FBI.”
On Thursday, March 10, a superseding indictment was filed against Mosby, adding additional details to the embattled State’s Attorney’s increasingly complex—and ridiculous—case.
The superseding indictment includes an easily disprovable claim made in a Dec. 10, 2020, letter submitted to a mortgage broker that said Mosby had spent the previous 70 days in Florida, where she had a vacation home. There is plenty of evidence, including public appearances, that show she was in Baltimore City during at least part of that 70-day time period. The reason for this claim was to make the case that the home was a secondary residence, adjusting a previous claim that the Florida vacation home was her primary residence.
“Mosby falsely represented that she had spent the past 70 days living in Florida and working remotely when she, in fact, had not,” the indictment said.
While it is possible that Mosby returned for certain public appearances, that defense takes this case full circle: It was kicked off, in no small part, by Baltimore Brew’s reporting, which revealed that Mosby had spent significant parts of 2018 and 2019 traveling out of state. In response to this reporting, Mosby said she had done nothing wrong and called on the city’s Inspector General to investigate her travel. After the IG, Isabel Cumming, did just that, Mosby accused Cumming of bias.
The superseding indictment also claims that Mosby filed a “false gift letter” to ensure she would have the almost $36,000 needed to put down on a vacation home. According to the indictment, Mosby needed $35,699.15 in liquid assets to put toward the home. She only had $31,043.24. So she said she received a $5,000 “gift” from her husband, City Council President Nick Mobsy.
Bank records, however, show that Marilyn Mosby had transferred $5,000 of her own money to her husband Nick’s account, who then provided it as a “gift” to his wife.
“Rather than wait for her next paycheck to be deposited into her checking account, Mosby submitted a false gift letter,” the indictment said. “In it, she falsely claimed that her husband had made her a gift of $5,000 ‘to be transferred at closing’ to be applied toward the purchase of the…vacation home.”
Mosby made no comment, but her attorney, A. Scott Bolden, said the federal government is “scraping the bottom of the barrel when federal dollars are being spent to investigate money transferred between a husband and wife.”
As the superseding indictment notes—and as anyone who has ever applied for a mortgage has undoubtedly seen—those submitting information for a mortgage must sign a document which reminds the applicant that “MORTGAGE FRAUD IS INVESTIGATED BY THE FBI.”