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Editorial: Send the right message on Currie

State Sen. Ulysses Currie, D-Prince George’s, managed to escape conviction on federal corruption charges by a jury of his peers after his lawyers paraded a string of witnesses into court who testified that Mr. Currie simply wasn’t bright enough to have pulled off such a scheme.

The criminal justice system has spoken, and puzzling though the outcome may be, we must accept it.

But we believe the Currie verdict sends the wrong message to legislators and to the public. Once again, it looks like an elected official can flout state ethics rules with impunity.

The General Assembly still has a chance to send the right message by disciplining Mr. Currie for ethics violations. It is never easy to discipline one of your own, but it is time for the legislature to act decisively in the public interest.

During Mr. Currie’s trial, his lawyers did not dispute that he received about a quarter-million dollars from Shoppers Food Warehouse for lobbying various state officials on the supermarket chain’s behalf. In fact, they acknowledged the conflict of interest — which he did not reveal on state disclosure forms for five years — but said it was an ethical lapse at worst, not a criminal offense.

The General Assembly polices itself on ethical matters, and state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. has referred the Currie matter to the legislative ethics committee.

This panel can recommend reprimand, censure or expulsion. The final decision is up to the entire Senate.

The right decision is expulsion. Mr. Currie’s failure to disclose his relationship with Shoppers cannot be pooh-poohed as some minor clerical oversight. It is a blatant violation of state ethics rules, which forbid legislators from working as lobbyists for corporations if they lobby state officials or otherwise trade on their position as lawmakers.

Mr. Currie not only did exactly that but he also bragged about it in writing to Shoppers.

Enough is enough. It is clear what should be done. Now the General Assembly must show it has the courage and political will to do it.

3 comments

  1. This editorial misses the point. What about the fact that, by this flawed prosecution, the lives of three innocent individuals (the defendants in the case) were practically destroyed? What about the millions of dollars that were wasted by the prosecution? Does the Daily Record find the outcome “puzzling?” Is this because the Daily Record believes only the Government’s version of the story? Well, the Jury heard all of the evidence, and the Jury found that the defendants were not guilty. There is nothing puzzling about that. Sorry, but I expect better from a newspaper that purports to be unbiased.

  2. Not going to happen. Only one other legislator has been expelled: Larry Young. The appearance of racism, should Currie be expelled, will become a rallying cry.

  3. While I think your editorial states a strong case against Sen. Currie, allow me to make one observation: Your purported deference to the judicial process is neither genuine nor necessary. You cannot legitimately state that the “criminal justice system has spoken, and … we must accept it,” only to opine that the outcome was “puzzling,” “sends the wrong message,” and allows politicians to “flout state ethics rules with impunity.”

    Obviously, you do not accept the result reached by the criminal justice system. And, frankly, why should you? Why give the judicial system any greater leeway for injustice than the legislative process?

    I totally agree that the powerful and politically-connected do seem to get a free pass in many instances. But far too often, we also issue a free pass to a judicial system whose flaws are tolerated without a full examination of its own imperfections.

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