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Prosecutors describe Glenn as beset by debts, boastful of influence

Cheryl Glenn in March 2017. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Cheryl Glenn in March 2017. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

A former delegate who was instrumental in creating Maryland’s medical cannabis program is accused of soliciting and taking bribes in exchange for backing legislation related to cannabis, opioids and alcohol.

Cheryl Glenn, a Baltimore Democrat who resigned abruptly on Wednesday just weeks ahead of the start of a new General Assembly session, faces charges of honest services wire fraud and bribery, according to federal prosecutors. Glenn had been a member of the House of Delegates since 2007 and was a leader in the city delegation.

U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur announced Monday that Glenn is charged by criminal information with honest services wire fraud and bribery. The information was filed July 23 but sealed until Monday.

The criminal information describes Glenn as boasting about her influence in the granting of medical cannabis licenses in Maryland, and it said she was driven by the need to come up with money to pay her debts and stave off foreclosure on her home.

Glenn allegedly told an associate she had an outstanding tax debt, and the two agreed to solicit money. She also allegedly told a businessperson that a $20,000 payment “would get (her) out of the hole.”

Glenn is embroiled in foreclosure proceedings on her home on Darien Road filed in September. According to online court records, Glenn owes more than $102,000 on the property. She previously co-owned the home with her husband, Benjamin Glenn Sr., who died in 2015.

Prosecutors allege Glenn accepted $33,750 in bribes between March 2018 and February 2019 in exchange for voting for or introducing legislation impacting medical cannabis licenses, opioid maintenance therapy and liquor licenses.

The criminal information refers to two “associates” and three “business people” who allegedly met with Glenn repeatedly to discuss legislation and provide cash payments. The meetings occurred at unnamed restaurants and hotels in Baltimore and Annapolis, according to the charges.

Hur did not answer questions about when the federal investigation started, any potential cooperating witnesses or any use of wire recordings.

Glenn’s attorney, William C. Brennan Jr., said he does not comment publicly on pending cases.

“Any comment will be made in court,” said Brennan, partner at Brennan, McKenna & Lawlor Chtd. in Greenbelt.

Cannabis commission

Glenn was a leading advocate for the legalization of medical cannabis and the commission overseeing the program is named for her mother, Natalie M. LaPrade.

Robert K. Hur, U.S. States Attorney for the District of Maryland, announces federal honest services wire fraud and bribery charges against former State Del. Cheryl D. Glenn Monday, Dec. 23, 2019 in Baltimore. Behind him are Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leo Wise, left, and Derek Hines, right. (Amy Davis/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

Robert K. Hur, U.S. States Attorney for the District of Maryland, announces federal honest services wire fraud and bribery charges against former State Del. Cheryl D. Glenn Monday, Dec. 23, 2019 in Baltimore. Behind him are Assistant U.S. Attorneys Leo Wise, left, and Derek Hines, right. (Amy Davis/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

But prosecutors said that on multiple occasions Glenn took thousands of dollars in exchange for supporting or introducing pieces of legislation affecting medical cannabis licenses.

When people asked her how a company had been awarded a medical cannabis license without the use of lobbyists, Glen allegedly told them, “They know God and Cheryl Glenn.”

Glenn was a frequent critic of the medical cannabis commission and the legislature for failing to level the playing field for African-American entrepreneurs seeking licenses in the industry. She led the charge in 2017 and demanded a special session to deal with disparities in minority ownership after a first round of 15 licenses was awarded to companies controlled by white owners.

That demand ultimately resulted in the passage of House Bill 2 in 2018 that created four additional growing licenses and 10 processing licenses. Preliminary awards of those licenses were scheduled to be announced in September but were delayed after Glenn and the Legislative Black Caucus expressed concerns and one potential applicant was granted a preliminary injunction.

In March 2018, prosecutors said, Glenn met with an associate and two business people and agreed to vote for House Bill 2, which would favor their company in its attempt to secure a medical cannabis license. After the associate paid Glenn $3,000 in cash when the bill passed, Glenn allegedly disclosed that she had forced her way into a meeting with other legislators near the end of the session and said that without her efforts the two business people “wouldn’t even have a shot” at the new licenses.

In June of that year, she and the associate met with another businessperson who would allegedly go on to pay Glenn and the associate $10,000 to pursue changes to Maryland law to prioritize local businesses for medical cannabis license. Glenn and the associate split the payment after Glenn sent an email pledging to take the lead on a push to change the law, according to the charges.

The same businessperson also allegedly paid Glenn $5,000 to introduce legislation reducing the required experience for medical directors at opioid maintenance therapy clinics. The businessperson owned a methadone clinic and wanted to turn the operation over to his daughter so he could pursue a medical marijuana business. The daughter did not yet have the requisite three years of experience.

Glenn pre-filed House Bill 35 in October 2018, but it was withdrawn in February after an unfavorable committee report.

Glenn also introduced House Bill 347 in January 2019, awarding a liquor license in her district, allegedly in exchange for a $20,000 payment from the businessperson, who wanted to open a restaurant. Glenn would receive $5,000 for introducing the legislation and another $15,000 when the license was awarded. The bill was also withdrawn after an unfavorable committee report.

Hur said decisions related to substances like marijuana, opioids and alcohol are “matters of life and death.”

“Such decisions and votes need to be based on careful analysis and deliberation about which solutions will help keep Marylanders safe and healthy,” Hur said. “These decisions cannot be on the basis of who is the highest bidder.”

Prosecutor scrutiny

Del. Darryl Barnes, D-Prince George’s and chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, Monday described Glenn, a former chair of the caucus, as a friend. He said her abrupt Wednesday resignation and now the revelation of the reason behind it “hit me like a ton of bricks.”

Dels. Cheryl Glenn and Darryl Barnes, Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, respectively. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Dels. Cheryl Glenn and Darryl Barnes, Baltimore City and Prince George’s County, respectively, in early 2019. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Barnes also said the case speaks to the need to increase lawmaker pay and benefits. He said the current pay structure doesn’t provide for lawmakers to make enough money to live, which might be driving them to take bribes.

Members of the General Assembly were paid an annual salary of $50,330 in 2018. Pay will remain at that level through 2023, according to the Maryland State Archives. The median household income in Maryland for 2017, the latest estimate available, was $78,916, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Barnes also said there appears to be “a trend” in public officials being targeted, though he didn’t ascribe a motive.

“That trend doesn’t sit well,” he said. “If you look at the number of people just caught up in this stuff, it just makes for a bad day, not only for the African-American community but for the Maryland General Assembly at large.”

Glenn is the second member of the House to resign due to federal criminal charges in recent weeks.

Del. Tawanna Gaines, D-Prince George’s, resigned prior to entering into a plea agreement with federal prosecutors related to the theft of more than $22,000 in campaign donations. Her daughter has also pleaded guilty to related charges.

Two other former Prince George’s County delegates were charged with bribery in 2017. Michael L. Vaughn was convicted last year for taking cash payments in exchange for voting in favor of bills involving liquor sales in the county. William Campos was charged in a related case and pleaded guilty in 2017 for accepting brides for directing government grants to individuals in return for payments during his time as a county councilman.

Former state Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks was sentenced to 42 months in prison last year for taking $15,300 in bribes from an informant posing as a businessman.

Hur said Monday that his office has added prosecutors to investigate public corruption cases. The Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office also charged former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh with fraud and tax evasion last month. She pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to defraud the United States and tax evasion. Sentencing is scheduled for February.

Government affairs reporter Bryan P. Sears contributed to this story.

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