Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, testifying at the trial of state Sen. Ulysses Currie, told the jury Monday that he considers Currie a friend, a mentor and “a man of strong integrity.”
Brown (D) was the latest in a string of character witnesses — including high-profile politicians — called by attorneys for Currie (D-Prince George’s) as part of his defense against federal corruption charges in a trial in its fifth week.
Prosecutors say that under the guise of a consulting relationship, Currie received more than $245,000 in payments to do government favors for Shoppers Food Warehouse, a grocery chain.
During 14 minutes of testimony in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, Brown said that he came to know Currie in 1994, when Brown managed Currie’s Senate campaign. Four years later, Brown ran for the House of Delegates on Currie’s ticket to represent the same legislative district in Prince George’s County.
“Senator Currie has been a mentor to me, both professionally and personally,” said Brown, who is gearing up to run for governor in 2014. “My opinion is that Ulysses Currie is an honest man.”
Brown described Currie as “very caring” and “very constituent-oriented.”
Echoing testimony of other witnesses, Brown said Currie’s organizational skills were “lacking.”
Brown said Currie never told him that he was a paid consultant for Shoppers. That relationship lasted more than five years, ending shortly after FBI agents raided Currie’s home in 2008.
Prosecutors say Currie improperly used his office to advocate for stoplights, development deals and other projects that would benefit Shoppers.
The defense has acknowledged a conflict of interest but is saying that Currie’s actions were not criminal. Currie’s attorneys have presented witnesses who have played down Currie’s role in various projects.
Others who have testified about Currie’s character include U.S. House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and state Sen. Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery). In coming days, the defense is expected to call Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.) and former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), who had a friendly relationship with Currie despite partisan differences.