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Grocery chain in Currie case agrees to $2.5 million penalty

A federal judge on Monday approved an agreement that calls for a grocery chain to pay a $2.5 million penalty and cooperate in the prosecution of longtime Maryland Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George's).

Currie, meanwhile, is likely to be represented in the case by lawyers from the federal public defender's office, according to one present at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Baltimore Monday afternoon.

Currie, the powerful chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, was indicted this month on charges that he took more than $245,000 in bribes to use his position and influence to do favors for Shoppers Food and Pharmacy. Currie denies wrongdoing.

Under the agreement approved Monday, the parent company of Shoppers agreed to the financial penalty in exchange for deferred prosecution of the case. If Shoppers continues to cooperate, federal attorneys agreed to dismiss the criminal prosecution of the chain.

The deal is intended to strengthen prosecutor's hand against Currie, who failed to disclose his relationship with the grocery chain in state ethics filings.

The case appears to be taking a financial toll on Currie, 73, who spent more than 30 years as an educator. Until recently, he has been represented by Dale P. Kelberman, a high-powered Baltimore attorney.

Joseph L. Evans, an assistant public defender, said that relationship is now "in limbo" and that talks are under way with his office to represent Currie. The judge in the hearing identified Evans and a colleague, who sat in the back of the courtroom, as "potential lawyers" for Currie.

"It's sort of a crushing financial obligation," Evans said.

Reached Monday night, Currie declined to comment.

By John Wagner  |  September 13, 2010; 6:05 PM ET
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