The Washington Post

Sen. Ulysses Currie’s public corruption trial nears end

Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George's) walks out of U.S. District Court Wednesday with his wife, the Rev. Shirley Gravely-Currie, during a recess from closing arguments in a bribery case against him. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Prosecutors pressed their contention Wednesday that Maryland Sen. Ulysses Currie “sold” his office to a grocery chain, while lawyers for Currie’s co-defendants argued that the bribery case was so weak that it never should have gone to trial.

The dueling claims came on a lengthy day of closing arguments — so lengthy, in fact, that lawyers will return to finish on Thursday. A lawyer for Currie (D-Prince George’s) is scheduled first.

On Wednesday, Leo J. Wise, an assistant U.S. attorney, highlighted Currie’s failure to disclose on state ethics forms that he was being paid by Shoppers Food Warehouse as a consultant.

“For five years, he withheld that information from the public,” Wise said. “That’s not an accident.”

Wise walked jurors through seven episodes in which he alleged Currie had used his office to do favors for Shoppers. Those included traffic-light requests, the transfer of a liquor license and several development deals.

Jurors also heard from lawyers representing two grocery chain executives, who are accused of conspiring with Currie.

Joshua R. Treem, a lawyer for former Shoppers president William J. White, said the case reminded him of the “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the Hans Christian Andersen tale about two weavers who promise an emperor a suit of clothes that are invisible to people who are stupid or incompetent. “Really when you look at it critically, it isn’t there,” Treem said.

Jonathan S. Zucker, a lawyer for R. Kevin Small, another grocery executive, argued that prosecutors had not shown any criminal intent.

Zucker accused FBI agents of pursuing the case even after it came to light that Currie and Shoppers had signed a consulting agreement.

“One of the seven deadly sins — pride — that’s why you’re here,” he told the jurors.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.



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