Trial of Senator Currie begins

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September 28, 2011

Maryland

BALTIMORE, Maryland:The trial for former Senate Budget and Taxation Committee chairman and current Senator Ulysses Currie began on Tuesday. Currie faces nine charges, with the harshest possible punishment being 20 years in prison for extortion. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen O. Gavin stated that Currie used his position as committee chairman to sell the "power of his office for nearly a quarter of a million dollars to two corrupt corporate executives."[1]

She also claimed that Currie and defendants William J. White and R. Kevin Small of Shoppers Food Warehouse, conspired to conceal the nature of Senator Currie's relationship with the chain of grocery stores. They are also accused of lying to federal investigators.[1]

Defense attorney Lucius T. Outlaw III argued that Currie's relationship with Shoppers was no different than one that a private citizen could have carried on. He said, "Maryland legislators are allowed and expected to have outside employment and are expected to have contact with local and state officials." He also stated that, "There’s a significant difference between a conflict of interest and bribery."[1]

Among things that were gained by Shoppers as a result of Currie's actions were the following: "a traffic light it needed to ensure easy access to a store on Route 198, an exception in the law to allow a liquor license to be moved to a store in College Park and help that indirectly got Shoppers a $850,000 rent reduction for a store at Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore."[1]

Gavin also stated that Currie never told officials that he was working for Shoppers, while the defense argued that he made no attempts to hide this fact.[1]

Currie stepped down from the seat as chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee in September after being indicted. He was then re-elected to the senate in November.

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