Defense depicts Currie as disorganized

October 26, 2011

Attorneys for Maryland state Sen. Ulysses Currie introduced evidence Wednesday of a long-running pattern of omissions and sloppiness in the financial disclosure forms that the Prince George’s Democrat filed with the state — often months after they were due.

The exhibits were intended to bolster the defense claim that Currie’s failure to disclose consulting work for Shoppers Food Warehouse for more than five years was not all that remarkable.

The lack of disclosure is key to the prosecution’s contention that Currie’s relationship with the grocery chain amounted to a bribery and extortion scheme. Prosecutors allege that Currie used his office to do a series of government favors for Shoppers, including advocating for stoplight requests and development deals, and that he received $245,000 for those efforts.

Jurors also heard Wednesday from former Maryland governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), the latest in a series of character witnesses presented by Currie’s defense.

“Certainly with regard to my dealings over the years, I found him to be very forthright,” Ehrlich said, recounting how he and Currie became friends after both were elected to the House of Delegates in 1986.

The trial in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, in its fifth week, is expected to go to the jury next week. The judge disclosed that Currie’s wife is expected to testify Thursday and said closing arguments could take place Tuesday.

An attorney for Currie, who is the former chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, previously indicated that Currie will not take the stand in his own defense.

On Wednesday, attorney Joseph L. Evans put Robert A. Hahn, the former executive director of the State Ethics Commission, on the stand stand to review Currie’s annual financial disclosures dating to 1986.

The review showed several instances in which Currie, who moved to the Senate in 1995, filled out the wrong form or put information in the wrong section. He routinely did not include required information about his wife’s employment. And the forms were almost always late, prompting two reprimands that were accompanied by $350 penalties.

Hahn also testified that it would have been sufficient for Currie to disclose only that he was working as a consultant without detailing his client list.

Earlier in the trial, prosecutors called some high-ranking state officials who testified that they did not know of Currie’s relationship with Shoppers when they met with him about projects that would benefit the chain.

On Wednesday, for the second straight day, the defense called a representative from a competing grocery chain who said the chain was aware that Currie was doing work for Shoppers.

Gregory Ten Eyck, a director of public and government affairs for Safeway, said that Currie was invited in 2007 to serve on the board of the Capital Area Food Bank, a Washington area charity, in part because of his role with Shoppers.

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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