BALTIMORE (WJZ)– A federal jury debates the fate of a powerful Maryland state politician accused of taking bribes from a grocery chain. The trial of State Senator Ulysses Currie is in its sixth week.
Derek Valcourt has more on the closing arguments the jurors heard before their deliberations.
The jury heard lengthy arguments from both the prosecution and the defense painting two very different pictures of the relationship between Sen. Currie and grocery chain Shoppers Food.
The defense says Currie’s consulting for Shoppers was perfectly legal, not a secret, and they point to a contract to prove it. Prosecutors say the contract was all a cover for an illegal bribery scheme.
It is a day Currie has been waiting more than three years for, ever since FBI agents armed with search warrants raided his home and the offices of Shoppers Food warehouse.
“They went through the house, room by room and examined boxes,” Currie explained.
The evidence seized, prosecutors say, proves the former chair of the state’s powerful Budget and Taxation Committee took nearly a quarter of a million dollars in bribes between 2003 and 2008 in exchange for using his office and influence to benefit the grocery chain, including:
– a state deal lowering rent at Mondawmin Mall
– legislation allowing Shoppers to transfer a liquor license
– traffic lights near certain stores
– and an attempt to get millions in state grant money for a development that would have benefited Shoppers.
But the defense says what Currie did was not only perfectly legal, but they say the evidence shows he believed he did nothing wrong, and therefore he did not have the criminal intent to commit bribery.
Currie’s attorney Joseph Evans admits Currie should have disclosed his paid consulting for Shoppers as required on state ethics forms, but calls it a paperwork mistake.
“Sen. Currie is not dumb. Sen. Currie is smart. Sen. Currie is a mess when it comes to organizing details,” said Evans.
But the federal prosecutor Kathleen Gavin countered.
“This was no accident. This was no mistake. This was intentionally concealing from the public his connection to Shoppers,” she said.
Jurors are facing mountains of complicated evidence and weeks of testimony from dozens of witnesses. The judge allowed them to continue until 6 p.m. Thursday. They will resume deliberations Friday.
If convicted on all the charges, Currie faces the possibility of up to 20 years in prison.