Update, 2:15 p.m. — A lawyer for Maryland Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s) said in open court this afternoon that the defense does not plan to have Currie testify.
Joseph L. Evans, a lawyer for Currie, said he anticipates wrapping up the defense by Thursday.
A urologist testified Tuesday that Maryland Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s) was being treated for “the highest grade of prostate cancer there is” in 2008 when the FBI raided his home and a political corruption investigation became public.
Dr. Michael J. Naslund told the jury that in February 2008, Currie received the first in a series of injections of Lupron, a drug that dramatically reduces testosterone production, and that its side effects include forgetfulness and loss of reasoning ability.
FBI agents first questioned Currie about his relationship with Shoppers Food Warehouse at the time of the raid in May 2008. Prosecutors contend that under the guise of consulting agreement with Shoppers, Currie used his office to do a series of government favors for the grocery chain for more than five years.
Besides bribery and extortion, Currie has also been charged with making false statements to the FBI during his early morning interview.
Naslund offered no testimony about that morning itself but was asked about a report prepared by another doctor in April that said Currie believed his “mental acuity does seem to have decreased some.”
Naslund testified that about 25 to 30 percent of his patients on Lupron experience some cognitive effects.
“They forget things,” said Naslund, who is on the medical faculty at the University of Maryland. “They get lost driving somewhere they would never be lost before.”
Naslund said that Currie seemed “fuzzy” during some visits, including at least one that pre-dated his first injection of Lupron. The drug is time-released over four months.
“It was hard to get him to understand,” Naslund said of Currie. “You had to say things more than once.”
On cross examination by prosecutors, Naslund said Currie was never so“fuzzy” that he was not capable of making medical decisions for himself.
Naslund’s testimony came on a busy morning in the trial, now in its fifth week in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.
Others called to testify by the defense included Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), who became the latest in a string of fellow politicians to attest to Currie’s character.
“He’s an honest guy, and he’s a straight shooter,” Cummings told the jury.
Victoria Gruber, a former senior counsel to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, offered testimony about Currie’s leadership of that panel, which ended after he was indicted last year. Gruber also provided what amounted to a mini-tutorial for jurors on how the budget is reviewed, calling it a “very staff-intensive process.”
Gruber, now chief of staff to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), said Currie was a good committee chairman because of his honesty and ability to build consensus.
Echoing previous witnesses, she also testified that Currie was disorganized. “He would often lose the information I would give him or put on his chair,” Gruber said.
She also relayed an incident in which Currie fainted during a budget-related breakfast meeting in 2007 at the governor’s mansion in Annapolis.
“Suddenly, he fell of his chair and hit the floor,” Gruber said. “It was kind of a startling event.”
Before breaking for lunch, jurors also heard from Barry Scher, the former vice president for public affairs for Giant, a competing grocery chain. Scher testified that he learned several years ago that Currie was serving as a consultant for Shoppers.
“I shrugged my shoulders,” Scher said. “It was no big deal.”
Prosecutors have argued that Currie’s failure to disclose his consulting work on state ethics forms demonstrated he was trying to conceal the nature of his work.
During their case, prosecutors highlighted several instances in which Currie advocated for stop lights, development deals and other projects that would benefit Shoppers. In many instances, the government officials with whom Currie met said they did not know Currie was being paid by Shoppers.
His payments, which he reported on federal tax returns, totaled more than $245,000 over five years.