A federal jury acquitted prominent Maryland state Sen. Ulysses Currie in public corruption case.
The verdict came on the third full day of deliberations in a trial that started in September.
The 74-year-old Currie was charged with conspiracy, bribery, extortion and making false statements in an influence peddling case. Prosecutors said he was paid more than $245,000 to do government favors for Shoppers Food Warehouse between December 2002 and May 2008. The alleged favors included reducing rent for the chain at a Baltimore shopping mall, transferring a liquor license from one store to another, and putting traffic lights near stores. Prosecutors also said Currie failed to note that he was receiving income from the chain in state disclosure forms, which they argued was an intentional attempt to conceal a conspiracy.
Currie’s lawyers argued that the state senator, who worked as a consultant for Shoppers, just arranged meetings to help store executives negotiate the state's bureaucracy and did nothing illegal. Currie was encouraged to seek work by his part-time status as a legislator, they said.
“The jury’s verdict settles the question of federal criminal liability," U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein said in a statement released following the verdict. "The jury’s sole duty is to decide whether the evidence proves a defendant guilty of the charged crime beyond any reasonable doubt, and a substantial proportion of corruption trials result in acquittals. Prosecutors should never complain about the outcome of a fair trial.”
Currie has represented District 25 in Prince George's County in Maryland's legislature since 1987. He served two terms in the House of Delegates before being elected to the state senate in 1994. Currie has not resigned his state senate seat, though he did step down from his position as chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee shortly after his indictment in September 2010.
Two former Shoppers executives also were on trial with the senator for allegedly conspiring with him in the scheme. Former Shoppers President William White and former Vice President R. Kevin Small also were acquitted.