U.S. House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer testified before a federal jury Tuesday in the bribery trial of a Maryland state senator, continuing a string of defense witnesses who vouch for Sen. Ulysses Currie's honesty.
Hoyer described Currie as a friend and political ally of 30 years, dating back to Hoyer's time representing the same district in the state Senate.
“He is a person who is extremely caring and decent, but I don't think organization is his strong point,” said Hoyer, a Democrat representing southern Maryland and the Washington suburbs, said. “He did not pay attention to details, but he did pay attention to people.”
Currie, a Democrat representing Prince George's County, is charged with using his position to benefit the Shoppers Food Warehouse supermarket chain. He was paid more than $245,000 by Shoppers between 2003 and 2007. Prosecutors claim that the payments were bribes and extortion for his help with a variety of issues ranging from the placement of traffic lights to land acquisition and energy efficiency requirements. But Currie's defense argues he only worked as a consultant and did nothing illegal.
Hoyer testified that Currie is perceived as a decent and honest person of integrity, but he is also someone who is seen as “a follower rather than a leader who is not particularly taken with details and organization.”
“Ully is someone people get along with well,” Hoyer said. “He's a very positive person.”
Hoyer's comments Tuesday echoed the testimony of former Delegate Timothy Maloney on Monday that Currie has great people skills but no one would call him smart.
Maloney, an attorney who served in the legislature with Currie, testified about helping Currie draft a letter outlining the consulting arrangement with Shoppers. When asked by prosecutor Leo Wise asked about Currie's legislative performance, Maloney testified that the former chairman of the Maryland Senate Budget and Taxation Committee was good with people, but not with complex subjects such as the budget.
A Currie employee also described for the jury Monday a disorganized office where she struggled to help the lawmaker keep track of a busy schedule.
U.S. District Judge Richard Bennett also ruled Tuesday that urologist Michael Naslund, who treated Currie for prostate cancer, is qualified to testify as an expert on the effect of a drug Currie took during treatment on cognitive function. During a hearing on whether he qualified as an expert, Naslund was asked why he remembered that Currie appeared “fuzzy” during their meetings. Naslund said it just struck him because Currie is a state senator.