Reporting Derek Valcourt
BALTIMORE (WJZ) –Closing arguments begin in the federal case against a powerful Maryland senator accused of taking bribes from a chain of grocery stores.
Derek Valcourt explains the jury is getting two different pictures of Senator Ulysses Currie.
One picture is that of a corrupt politician who sold his power. The other is that of an honest man whose only mistake was sloppy paperwork.
Prince George’s County Senator Ulysses Currie, 74, is in the fight of his life as prosecutors blast him in closing arguments, telling jurors, “Senator Currie used his office to get Shoppers what they wanted. That’s why they paid him a quarter of a million dollars.”
Prosecutors reviewed evidence they say proves Currie used his power to get a state deal giving Shoppers lower rent at Mondawmin Mall, to pass legislation allowing Shoppers to transfer a liquor license, to get Shoppers traffic lights near certain stores, and that he tried –though failed– to get millions in state grant money for a development that would have benefited Shoppers.
Prosecutors say he did all this without ever disclosing that he was working as a paid consultant for the grocery chain as required on state ethics forms.
But defense attorneys maintain Currie’s paid consulting for Shoppers was all perfectly legal and call his ethics form omission a mistake.
Former Governor Bob Ehrlich, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and Maryland congressmen Elijah Cummings and Steny Hoyer all took the stand to call Currie an honest man, though all confessed they had no idea he was being paid by Shoppers.
His wife took the stand to testify she filled out his state ethics forms, and the errors on them were her fault.
In closing arguments, prosecutors fired back, saying “The defense is he somehow forgot to disclose this. He didn’t forget $245,000. It didn’t get lost in the stack of papers on his desk.”
If Senator Currie is convicted on all nine of the criminal charges, he faces the possibility of up to 20 years in prison.