Judge Rules That Mosby’s Former Defense Counsel Did Not Commit Criminal Contempt – Bolden Represented by RWL Attorneys Arnold Weiner, Geof Washington and Devon Harman
Today a federal judge decided that A. Scott Bolden will not face criminal penalties for his behavior during his representation of Marilyn Mosby. Mr. Bolden was represented in the matter by RWL’s Litigation Group, including its co-chair Arnold Weiner, Geof Washington and Devon Harman.
Mosby’s attorney did not commit criminal contempt, judge rules
By: Madeleine O'Neill February 21, 2023
The former lead defense lawyer for ex-Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby will not face criminal penalties for his behavior during the high-profile case, a federal judge decided Tuesday.
The judge found that the attorney, A. Scott Bolden, did not commit criminal contempt and will not be sanctioned.
U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett said in court Tuesday that the violations of local court rules that Bolden committed did not rise to the level of criminal contempt.
The side case against Bolden came after the judge handling Mosby’s trial, U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby, announced in court last month that Bolden had violated a number of local court rules and could be found in criminal contempt.
She pointed to a news conference in September where Bolden said outside the federal courthouse that state and federal employees and African American politicians were at risk of being targeted for prosecution if, like Mosby, they withdrew money from their retirement accounts under emergency pandemic rules.
Bolden also said it was “bulls—” that prosecutors blamed the defense team for another postponement of Mosby’s trial in September, though the delay was caused by incomplete expert witness disclosures from the defense.
Griggsby raised those statements and other purported local rule violations when she threatened Bolden with criminal penalties in court last month.
Bolden and the rest of the defense team quickly withdrew from Mosby’s case, citing a conflict of interest that would make it impossible for them to continue representing Mosby as Bolden defends against a criminal contempt finding.
Mosby is now being defended by federal public defender James Wyda.
The criminal contempt case against Bolden was reassigned from Griggsby to Bennett.
Bolden argued in a court filing last week that he could not be prosecuted for criminal contempt based on violations of local court rules. Judges can only hold lawyers in contempt for local rule violations if there has been a specific directive ordering the lawyer to follow a rule that he then breaks, Bolden’s lawyers wrote.
The response also claimed that Bolden cannot be held in contempt for including information from confidential juror questionnaires in a public filing, citing a 2009 case in which another Maryland federal judge allowed for hundreds of disqualifying juror questionnaire answers to be filed publicly.
Bolden’s lawyers asked the judge to consider sparing Bolden “the shame of referral and/or possible conviction for criminal contempt” as an act of “judicial grace.”
In a personal statement included in the filing, Bolden said the Mosby case “evoked themes that struck some of my core beliefs and may very well have colored my perceptions and caused me to react emotionally and inappropriately.”
He continued: “I have already received widespread criticism for the contentiousness that accompanied my defense of Ms. Mosby and for the antagonisms that were engendered by that defense. That criticism will not only have a profound effect upon my career going forward, but it will also cause other lawyers to exercise restraint in their own conduct under similar circumstances.”
The indictment against Mosby accuses her of lying about suffering a pandemic-related financial loss in order to make hardship withdrawals from her city retirement account. She put the $90,000 she withdrew from the account toward down payments on two Florida vacation properties, federal prosecutors say, and made several false statements when she applied for mortgages on the homes.
Mosby faces two counts each of perjury and mortgage fraud. She lost the job of Baltimore’s top prosecutor in January after placing third in the Democratic primary last year.
Things seemed out of place Tuesday in U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett’s courtroom.
The prosecutor’s table was empty, and on the defense side, Washington, D.C.-based attorney A. Scott Bolden sat in the chair normally reserved for defendants.
“I’m in a very different space right now,” Bolden told the federal judge in Baltimore.
“This is strange grounds for me as well,” Bennett replied.
In his 20 years on the federal bench, Bennett said he could not recall a time he presided over criminal contempt of court proceedings for an attorney.
Bolden and his legal team appeared before Bennett to explain why his conduct during his defense of former Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby did not warrant criminal contempt charges, and to ask Bennett to dismiss the case against him.
Ruling from the bench, Bennett admonished Bolden but found that criminal contempt was neither warranted nor permissible under the law and dismissed the case.
“You’re better than this,” Bennett said to Bolden, who was outwardly emotional during the proceedings. “A person of your experience should never find himself in this position.”
Having represented Mosby since she was federally indicted on charges of perjury and mortgage fraud in January 2022, Bolden’s zealous defense of his client created legal jeopardy for himself. U.S. District Judge Lydia Kay Griggsby, who presides over Mosby’s case, determined Jan. 17 that Bolden had violated several of the court’s local rules governing attorney conduct and procedures, and ordered him to explain why his conduct did not warrant a criminal referral to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Maryland.
Griggsby allowed Bolden and Mosby’s five other attorneys to withdraw from the case last month, finding the contempt proceedings likely amounted to a distraction and would potentially hamper their ability to adequately represent her going forward. Federal Public Defender James Wyda was appointed as Mosby’s new attorney.
Bolden’s conduct — divulging confidential juror information in public legal papers; filing a motion without the signature of a Maryland attorney; using profanity to criticize the second postponement of the case and calling it “bulls---” on the courthouse steps — violated the court’s local rules and was unwarranted, conceded his attorney, Arnold Weiner.
Bennett described Bolden’s actions, specifically the use of profanity when reacting to Griggsby’s Sept. 14 decision to postpone the case, “abhorrent.”
Bolden has apologized repeatedly for that outburst, privately to Griggsby and publicly in open court, to news reporters and in court filings.
However, Weiner said, there is no standing under the law to move forward with criminal contempt proceedings because violating local rules does not rise to the merit of criminal charges.
Had Bolden directly violated a judge’s order, like breaking the gag order Griggsby issued in the case, that would have given rise to the contempt charges, Weiner said.
“We think the judge made an absolutely correct ruling as a matter of law,” Weiner, a longtime Baltimore attorney, said afterward.
Weiner said his client was a man of “high integrity,” and that he would continue practicing law in the future “honorably.”
Renowned Baltimore attorney William “Billy” Murphy attended the hearing as a spectator, and credited Weiner’s brilliance as part of why Bolden was able to avoid further punishment. Asked about Bolden’s conduct, Murphy said he believes Bolden is an “exemplary” lawyer.
“Stuff happens,” Murphy said. “We’re all mortal beings.”
Bolden, who sounded as if he was holding back tears when addressing Bennett, said the contempt proceedings had him feeling as if he was standing at the “precipice” of his career. A lawyer for 36 years and the son of a former judge, Bolden described himself as a lawyer’s lawyer and that he wishes he could take his actions back.
Bennett said he believed going forward Bolden would not reoffend.
“You’re above that and I’m convinced of that,” he said.