Reporting Derek Valcourt
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—The law might not have caught up with Ulysses Currie. But lawmakers still may. The Prince George’s County senator will now face ethics complaints over the same relationship with a grocery chain that had him facing bribery charges in federal court.
Derek Valcourt explains what the senator faces now.
While not illegal, his actions might have been unethical. And there’s a punishment for that.
The cloud of a criminal conviction no longer hangs over the head of Sen. Currie after a federal jury acquitted him on all charges that his paid consulting for Shoppers Food Warehouse was actually an illegal bribery scheme as prosecutors first contended when they raided his home for evidence in 2008.
“This is the greatest moment of my life,” said Currie after being cleared of all charges. “This has been a rough four years, almost four years, for my wife, my family and also for my constituents.”
His defense attorneys conceded in court that while Currie’s actions on Shoppers’ behalf may have been ethics violations, they did not constitute violations of the law.
Currie may have escaped criminal punishment but his relationship with Shoppers food may likely earn him sanctions from the General Assembly.
Senate President Mike Miller says the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics will likely meet in January to consider Currie’s case.
At issue: meetings Currie had with state officials on Shoppers’ behalf, at least one vote on legislation that directly benefited Shoppers, and his failure five years in row to disclose his relationship with Shoppers on state ethics forms as required– all while on the Shoppers Food Warehouse payroll.
“Taking money is the big problem,” said Matthew Crenson, Johns Hopkins political science professor.
Crenson predicts Currie’s ethics hearings won’t have the same happy ending as Currie’s trial.
“They are probably going to look at these instances of behavior in a slightly different light than the jury did,” he said.
If the state ethics panel finds his actions unethical, Currie could face anything from the equivalent of a slap on wrist to expulsion from the General Assembly.
The last time the legislature dealt with such serious ethics complaints about one of their own was in 1998 when then Senator Larry Young was expelled from the General Assembly.