BALTIMORE - Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby got a warm reception Sunday morning at Baltimore's Empowerment Temple AME church, days after she was indicted on charges alleging she lied on financial documents.
After beginning his sermon, the Rev. Robert Turner summoned Mosby and her husband, Baltimore City Council President Nick Mosby, to the front of the church, where they were encircled by congregants, who joined hands in prayer.
"We rebuke the enemy and his attack on their life. The Devil is a liar," Turner said, standing beside the couple as an organist played softly. "We surround her physically now, but spiritually forevermore, as we intercede on her behalf."
Then Mosby herself took the microphone, repeating a familiar refrain - that she is innocent, and that the charges reflect unfair probing into her finances.
"We can certainly use your prayers," Mosby said, reading from a cellphone. "As a family, we are in the fight of our lives. But I stand before you confident and covered, trusting that with God on our side, I believe the fight is already fixed in my favor."
The charges against Mosby, which were announced Thursday, included allegations that she lied to prematurely withdraw thousands of dollars from her city retirement account, then used the funds to purchase two vacation homes in Florida. Prosecutors said she claimed she had faced financial hardship from the COVID-19 pandemic to complete the withdrawal, when in fact she had received a raise during that time period.
While applying for loans to purchase the two properties, Mosby allegedly lied again, saying she was not indebted to the federal government when in fact she owed thousands in unpaid taxes, prosecutors wrote.
During his sermon Sunday, Turner repeatedly cited the charges against Mosby, as he discussed the biblical account of Jesus forgiving a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. The sermon was entitled: "He dropped the charges."
"One sad fact about today is social media can allow people to be charged - accused - before you ever set foot in a courtroom," Turner said. "As a people of African descent, we have been charged before we even got here. They charged us while we were minding our business in Africa."
At one point during his prayer for Mosby, Turner began to solicit donations on her behalf - not for her campaign, but for her personal use. Mosby appeared to decline the offer.
"Even this shows her integrity," Turner said.
Turner took over as Empowerment's pastor in October, after former pastor George Barnes was dismissed over concerns that he had failed to file financial forms required by the church's mortgage lender, costing the congregation thousands of dollars in fees. Turner, who had previously served at an AME church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, also took on an activist's role: calling for reparations and recognition a century after the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.
Sunday, Turner was celebrating 15 years in ministry while leading service at the church, an African Methodist Episcopal congregation with thousands of members that's headquartered near the Pimlico Race Course in Northwest Baltimore.
"I know I'm new here to Baltimore, but it don't take me long to figure out what's right and what's wrong. And in my humble opinion, what's being done to this sister is dead wrong," Turner said of Mosby.
Speaking before the congregation for about five minutes Sunday, Mosby struck a defiant tone, although she stressed the difficulties of her job as state's attorney for the city.
"Despite the death threats, the hate mail, the constant media attacks, the lawsuits, the scrutiny of every dollar in my bank account - I'm still here, I'm still standing and I'm still blessed," Mosby said.
The 41-year-old, who took office as state's attorney in 2015, is perhaps best known for bringing charges against several Baltimore Police officers who were charged in the death of Freddie Gray in police custody. None were convicted.
Mosby, who bills herself as a progressive prosecutor, has made headlines more recently for prosecutorial policy changes. In 2020, she began dismissing charges levied for certain nonviolent crimes such as drug possession, prostitution and trespassing. Mosby's term will end this year and she will be up for reelection.
She has maintained her innocence throughout the federal investigation into her and her husband's finances, and said the charges are a political witch hunt aimed at her because of her policies and her race. Nick Mosby has not been charged with any crime.
As Turner and Mosby spoke, claps and encouraging cheers emerged from the crowd. As the couple left the church, they embraced several parishioners.
"We're praying for you," one said.
Cynthia Addison, who said she's attended Empowerment Temple since 2005, said she's seen Mosby at the church in the past, and she continues to support the state's attorney.
"I support her, and I'm just praying that she's exonerated from all charges. You know, she's a great woman, and I'm prayerful that things will work out for her," said the 54-year-old parishioner from Randallstown.
To Empowerment parishioner Dorothy Hemsley, a 73-year-old from Owings Mills, the charges against Mosby reflect unfair persecution of Black women. She likened the situation to the prosecution of former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, who is serving three years in federal prison after she pleaded guilty to charges related to her self-dealing children's book scheme.
"As you see all the way through, who they get: All the Black women - not the people that's really done things," Hemsley said. "Even as far as Pugh, what she's done. And I'm sure people ahead of her did that, but she was the one who was chosen to be taken down."
Also in attendance was Maryland Sen. Antonio Hayes, who serves on the church's trustee board. Hayes, a Democrat who represents Maryland's 40th district in Baltimore City, said he stands by Mosby, given that she is considered innocent in the eyes of the law before she has been proved guilty.
"Right now they're just accusations. Everyone has their day in court," Hayes said. "I wish them well in their journey and we'll see what will happen."
"It's a true belief and a discipline of the AME church to reach out to those who are in need," Hayes said. "And I think it was quite Christian of [Turner] to open the doors of our church to cover the Mosbys in this time, obviously, where they need prayer."