Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Blue State Graft Watch: Maryland State Senator Won't Testify in His Own Defense in Corruption Trial

A 4-term Democrat state senator representing Prince George's county does not plan on testifying on his own behalf as his Federal corruption trial is coming to an end, according to his lawyers.

Attorneys for Currie had held out the possibility that he might testify, but it is rare for defendants in criminal cases to take the stand, and Currie and his defense team indicated that he will not.

The announcement in U.S. District Court in Baltimore by defense attorney Joseph L. Evans came during a full day of testimony in the trial, now in its fifth week. The 74-year-old senator is accused of taking bribes in exchange for a series of government favors for Shoppers Food Warehouse.

Currie has also been charged with making false statements to the FBI during an interview at the time of the early-morning raid of his home.
Instead, the defense has made the claim that Currie's memory and mental capacity has been diminished by injections of a drug called Lupron stemming from his 2008 treatment for prostate cancer.

In May 2008, the FBI searched his District Heights, MD home and seized documents pertaining to his consultation work with Shoppers Food Warehouse. Currie was indicted by a federal grand jury in September 2010.
A federal grand jury has indicted Maryland State Senator Ulysses S. Currie, age 73, of Forestville, Maryland; and Shoppers Food Warehouse Corp. (SFW) executives—former president William J. White, age 67, of Annapolis, Maryland and Jupiter, Florida; and former vice president for real estate development R. Kevin Small, age 55, of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania—in connection with a scheme from 2002 to 2008 in which the supermarket chain allegedly paid Senator Currrie in exchange for using his official position and influence in matters benefitting White, Small, and the supermarket chain. In addition, a separate criminal information was filed against Shoppers Food Warehouse Corp., which has agreed to enter into a deferred prosecution agreement.

The 18-count indictment alleges that soon after Ulysses Currie became chair of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee in 2002, he asked to be placed on the payroll of Shoppers Food Warehouse Corporation and agreed to use his government office and authority to pursue specific state action to benefit his private employer. Chairman Currie allegedly signed contracts reflecting the cover story that he would provide services unrelated to his government office; failed to file legally required conflict-of-interest statements with the Maryland General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics; and lied under oath on public financial disclosure forms filed with the Maryland State Ethics Commission for five consecutive years, in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008. Meanwhile, Chairman Currie caused to be introduced and voted on legislation to benefit the corporation and sought benefits on its behalf from state officials. The indictment alleges that Chairman Currie prepared a list of 12 specific projects in which he used his Senate office and influence to benefit the supermarket chain, and offered to bring “many more” government benefits in the future. Chairman Currie allegedly wrote that he was “in a unique position to assist” the supermarket chain “in expanding its mission and increasing its bottom line.”

The indictment alleges that Currie received payments of $3,000 per month beginning in February 2003, raised to $3,416.67 in July 2004, to $3,800 in June 2007, and ultimately to $7,600 per month in December 2007. In order to conceal his arrangement with White, Small and the corporation, the indictment charges that Chairman Currie did not disclose any income from the corporation on five separate annual ethics disclosures, from 2004 through 2008.
In a separate deferred prosecution agreement, Shoppers Food Warehouse was assessed $12.5 million in fines.

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