Glenn’s career in politics is halted amid accusations that she took nearly $34,000 in bribes to push legislation to benefit marijuana companies and other businesses.
“We expect our elected officials to put the interest of the public above their own. We do not expect them to sell their office to the highest bidder,” said U.S. Attorney for Maryland Robert K. Hur, announcing federal bribery and wire fraud charges that were filed in July and unsealed on Monday.
The charge was presented in a criminal information, a document that can be filed only with a defendant’s consent and that typically indicates a plea deal has been reached.
In charging papers, prosecutors painted a detailed picture of how they say Glenn (D-Baltimore City) accepted cash payments in exchange for supporting measures to expand licensing for out-of-state marijuana companies, create a preference for cannabis companies based in Maryland, relax the requirements to become an opioid clinic director and help a businessperson obtain a restaurant liquor license in her legislative district.
Glenn, 68, is at least the sixth current or former Maryland lawmaker to face criminal charges related to fraud or bribery in the past two years. A former chair of the Baltimore City delegation and the Legislative Black Caucus, she abruptly resigned from the House of Delegates on Wednesday. She refused to comment on the details of the resignation, except to say that it was due to personal reasons.
William C. Brennan, Glenn’s attorney, declined to comment on Monday. Glenn is scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court in Baltimore on Jan. 22.
In the early days of the state’s three-year-old medical cannabis program, Glenn was a strong voice for transparency in the lucrative industry. The panel regulating the industry was named in honor of her mother, Natalie M. LaPrade. In 2017, Glenn appeared outraged by revelations, reported in The Washington Post, that applications for medical marijuana licenses had been graded by people with ties to the entities that had applied.
“The whole process needs to be restarted in order for the state of Maryland to have a clean medical cannabis program void of any corruption and collusion or anything,” Glenn said at the time.
Months later, prosecutors say, Glenn took her first bribe.
The U.S. attorney’s office accused Glenn of taking a total of $33,750 in bribes in five payments, beginning in early 2018 and continuing into 2019.
In April 2018, the charging document says, Glenn met an unnamed businessperson at an Annapolis restaurant and slid the person a white, letter-sized envelope with her property tax bill enclosed.
In exchange for a payment of $3,000, the document says, she had agreed to vote in favor of legislation that increased the number of medical marijuana growing and processing licenses available to out-of-state firms.
“I need your deposit slip and a check so there is no question who paid it,” the businessperson had told her in March, according to the charging document. “That way everything is kosher.”
Glenn is accused of asking the person to “pay it with cash.”
At the April meeting, Glenn told the person she had to “fight like hell” to get the legislation passed, the document says.
During a meeting in 2018, it says, Glenn told a businessperson that after she created a bill that helped a certain company secure a growing license, she was asked by others “who the hell they know? ’Cause they didn’t have any high-priced lobbyists or anything.”
According to the charging document, she replied: “They know God and Cheryl Glenn.”
A former teachers union official and former employee of Baltimore City schools, Glenn joins at least five other Maryland lawmakers charged with bribery or fraud in recent years.
In October, Tawanna P. Gaines, then a Democratic delegate from Prince George’s County, resigned before pleading guilty to a federal wire fraud charge. Gaines, who is awaiting sentencing, admitted to using $22,000 in campaign donations to purchase fast food and pay for dental work, hairstyling and other personal expenses.
Former delegates Michael L. Vaughn and William A. Campos, both Democrats from Prince George’s, were sentenced in 2018 to four and 4½ years, respectively, in federal prison for participating in a pay-to-play bribery scheme involving liquor licenses. Also in 2018, former state senator Nathaniel T. Oaks (D-Baltimore City) was sentenced to 3½ years for a bribery scheme involving a developer.
In 2017, Gary Brown of Baltimore was sentenced to probation for illegally bypassing state campaign finance limits while working for then-Baltimore mayoral candidate Catherine E. Pugh. He was charged days before he was scheduled to take the oath of office to fill a House seat that became vacant as a result of Pugh’s election as mayor.
Pugh, a Democrat, pleaded guilty last month to fraud and tax evasion conspiracies to illegally hide profits from sales of her children’s books to enhance her political and personal fortunes. Last week, the state prosecutor filed a perjury charge against Pugh relating to disclosure forms she filed in Annapolis while she served as a state senator.
Glenn introduced her first bill on medical marijuana in 2010. Four years later, the General Assembly approved a bill to create a state-regulated medical cannabis industry. The program took years to get off the ground, amid bureaucratic missteps and legal challenges.
In 2016, when the multibillion-dollar industry began operating, Glenn used her bully pulpit as chair of the Black Caucus to push for minority-owned companies to have a better shot at winning licenses. The bill failed to receive a vote in the final minutes of the 90-day session.
In 2018, Glenn sponsored a bill that increased the number of medical marijuana grower licenses and established a new cap for processing licenses. In 2019, she successfully sponsored a bill to legalize and regulate cannabis-infused edibles such as brownies and chocolate.
Glenn was known as an outspoken champion for Baltimore City, whose delegation she chaired this year.
She chaired the Black Caucus from 2016 to 2018, but her positions often clashed with some of the younger, more liberal members of the caucus. For example, Glenn sided with lawmakers who pushed to restore Maryland’s bail program after the state’s highest court instructed judges not to set bonds that are too high for poor defendants to pay. During a battle over how to address crime in Baltimore, she backed efforts to impose tougher penalties.
This year, Glenn chaired a subcommittee of the Black Caucus that recommended allowing members to belong to only one ethnic caucus, a move that one member who identifies as black and Latina described as an attempt to “purify” the caucus. The amendment was withdrawn following a backlash from members.
Fenit Nirappil contributed to this report.