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Currie enters not-guilty pleas at hearing on bribery counts

Thumbnail image for Currie.jpgMaryland Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George's) entered not-guilty pleas Friday to all 18 counts in an indictment that alleges that he took more than $245,000 in bribes to use his position and influence to do favors for a grocery chain.

Currie, the powerful chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, was represented in U.S. District Court in Baltimore by a pair of federal public defenders who have recently replaced his private attorneys in the case.

Currie, 73, who was accompanied by his wife, declined to comment upon leaving the courtroom, and one of his lawyers, Joseph L. Evans, said he was too new to the case to discuss its substance.

"What I can say is that Senator Currie is highly respected, beloved really, by those who know him and work with him," Evans said. "We're honored to represent him."

The federal indictment alleges that Currie aided Shoppers Food and Pharmacy in multiple dealings with the state, including transportation improvements, without disclosing his paid role on ethics forms or to state officials. Several of the counts Currie is facing carry punishments of up to 25 years in prison.

Currie was required to forfeit his passport Friday but no other restrictions were placed on his release other than showing up for future court proceedings.

Kathleen O. Gavin, a federal prosecutor handling the case, estimated that a trial would take four to six weeks.

Asked why Currie, a retired educator, no longer had a private lawyer, Evans said: "These sorts of cases are tremendously expensive, and frankly, only the wealthy can afford to defend themselves with private counsel."

Evans said Currie is suffering from several health issues and the case is taking a toll on him.

"This is a horrible, horrible strain on him," Evans said. "He's been in the sights of federal law enforcement going on three years now. ... He's doing the best he can under the circumstances."

Currie was unopposed in Tuesday's Democratic primary for his Prince George's Senate seat. He is also running unopposed in the November general election. No Republican candidate filed against him by the July deadline.

By John Wagner  |  September 17, 2010; 12:35 PM ET
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You have it spelled "Curry" on the headline link.

Posted by: Hk45 | September 17, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

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