Maryland Sen. Ulysses Currie, D-Prince George’s, is working to get the remaining charges in his corruption case thrown out of federal court because of what his lawyers believe is a confusion over his official duties.

“The motion to dismiss that is presently pending relates to whether, in this very specific context, the Maryland bribery statute that is incorporated into the federal charge is void for vagueness,” said Joseph L. Evans, the lead attorney for Currie, in an e-mail. “In short, that provision requires that the government prove that Senator Currie was paid to influence his ‘official duties.’

“There is no set of responsibilities that are listed as his official duties,” he continued.

Currie was indicted on bribery charges last September when federal authorities accused him of conspiring with high-ranking members of Shoppers Food Warehouse (SFW) to use his position as a state senator to advance the company’s interests.

Evans said the issue confusing what official acts are is the fact that state legislators are part-time employees and most legislators have other jobs as well. Evans says it is a given that at some point, the other job will involve coming into contact with other government officials.

“It is expected and understood that they will have primary employment separate from their legislative duties,” Evans said in an e-mail to the AFRO. “Further, it is understood that that primary employment will result in significant contacts between a legislator and state and local government officials.”

The indictment alleges that Currie along with R. Kevin Small, former SFW president of Real Estate Development and also a co-defendant in the case, met with the chair of the Prince George’s County Liquor Board in 2004 to transfer the liquor license from a SFW location in Takoma Park to another location in College Park. The indictment also states that Currie coerced one of his colleagues to introduce House Bill 1110 and another to amend that bill to authorize the transfer. It then states that Currie unlawfully failed to file a sworn Statement of Recusal from voting and voted in favor of the bill.

Currie’s lawyers have said all along that his work with SFW was well documented and are now saying that he can do anything for that company that any person, not employed in a government capacity, can do.

“Virtually everything that Senator Currie did was something a private party could have done,” Evans continued. “Thus, the question becomes how can he or Shoppers Food Warehouse know when he is wearing his ‘private hat’ or his ‘public hat?’”

Judge Richard D. Bennett is expected to rule on the motion soon. Bennett has already denied several other motions introduced by Currie’s defense team last week, but Evans remains confident that Currie has a legitimate defense. “I have no comment on what the judge will do, but I do believe our position is a strong one,” Evans said.

Eight of the original 18 counts were dismissed earlier this year in order to “streamline” the case.

Stay tuned to for updates after Judge Bennett makes his decision.


George Barnette

Special to the AFRO