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Former Baltimore delegate Cheryl Glenn pleads guilty to federal corruption charges. Then she hugs FBI agents.

Delegate Cheryl Glenn arrives at the U.S. District courthouse to face federal corruption charges. January 22, 2020
Delegate Cheryl Glenn arrives at the U.S. District courthouse to face federal corruption charges. January 22, 2020 (Barbara Haddock Taylor/Baltimore Sun)

Seven months after reaching a secret deal with federal prosecutors, and a month after suddenly resigning from the state legislature, former Baltimore Delegate Cheryl D. Glenn walked into federal court Wednesday and admitted taking bribes in exchange for political favors.

What Glenn and her defense attorneys, prosecutors and FBI agents present didn’t do was provide any new information about why she was targeted or what will happen to the slate of unnamed business people and “associates” mentioned in the 20-page document outlining her crimes.

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The brief hearing was routine in most respects, with Glenn answering a series of questions from the judge to make sure she understood what she was doing, and Glenn agreeing to surrender her passport.

But it ended with a surprising note. After pleading guilty, Glenn turned to two FBI agents who had walked across the room from the U.S. Attorney’s table — and gave them each a long hug.

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Her plea agreement, made public Thursday morning, offered a second hint: it revealed that Glenn had been confronted by FBI agents about the bribes nearly a year ago, in February 2019.

Glenn, 68, a Democrat, made her first appearance in U.S. District Court since the charges were unsealed in late December, and admitted to courting payments in 2018 and 2019 to help offset financial problems. There was no mention of whether Glenn, had been cooperating with federal investigators.

At the hearing prosecutors said Glenn signed a plea agreement letter on June 24, although a criminal information — a federal charging document — wasn’t issued until July. Glenn continued to serve as a legislator and chair of the city delegation until Dec. 18, when she abruptly resigned.

Glenn was a chief proponent of legalizing medical marijuana, and the state’s medical marijuana commission is named after her mother.

Robert K. Hur, U.S. States Attorney for the District of Maryland, announces federal charges against State Del. Cheryl D. Glenn.

In her plea, she admitted that she solicited and accepted $33,750 in cash payments through an associate to help an out-of-state marijuana dispensing company.

“I’ve stopped spending time with people if they’re not, um, donating,” she said during one meeting, according to the plea deal.

She later accepted money from a local business owner in exchange for introducing legislation that would give local businesses priority for medical marijuana licenses, and later to introduce a bill to get that businessperson a liquor license on Belair Road.

After her associate delivered a $15,000 payment in February 2019, according to federal court records, she had that person sign a document saying the cash was “a gift and is not being given to me in exchange for any political favors.”

“This protects you and I,” she told him.

Neither the businesses, their owners nor the associate were identified.

Sen. Cory McCray, who represents East Baltimore, said the rest of the lawmakers from the area need to help the district rebound in the wake of Glenn’s conviction.

“Serving in public office is a great, high honor and we should never forget that,” he said. “The 45th District is one of the most challenged districts in the state. We have to roll up our sleeves. Our district needs even greater dedication and commitment from its public servants.”

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Del. Stephanie Smith, the new chairwoman of the Baltimore delegation, said lawmakers would pursue ethics reform in the wake of Glenn’s conviction.

“This session, the General Assembly will be considering ethics and transparency measures to strengthen public accountability for state elected officials," Smith said. “To serve our neighbors is a privilege and no one is simply entitled to the public’s trust. We must earn it.”

Glenn was elected to the legislature in 2006 after serving as a lobbyist for the Baltimore Teachers Union and before that for eight years as president of the City Union of Baltimore, the union for many city employees.

At Wednesday’s plea hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Catherine C. Blake did not read the statement of facts from Glenn’s plea, which she said spanned 10 pages.

When the hearing concluded, FBI Agents Steven Quisenberry and Heather H. Grow walked over to the defense table and each exchanged a warm embrace with Glenn.

Quisenberry was the agent who filed the criminal complaint in 2017 against then-state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks, a Southwest Baltimore Democrat who also was convicted of accepting bribes. In those documents, Quisenberry wrote that an investigation into Oaks had begun three years earlier “based on historical reporting that Oaks was associated with individuals who were involved in illegal activities, and that Oaks had inappropriately accepted money and other things of value from businesspersons and lobbyists in his capacity as a state delegate.”

The FBI said multiple targets in that case had become cooperators. Oaks was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison in July 2018.

Quisenberry has long worked on such political corruption cases, including the charges against the late Sen. Ulysses Currie, who was acquitted of accusations that he used his political position to help a grocery chain, and Nathan Chapman, a politically-connected businessman convicted of defrauding Maryland’s public employee pension system.

Glenn walked out of the courthouse with her attorney and straight past a bank of reporters and television cameras, who asked questions like, “Why did you accept those bribes?” “Is this the way things are run in Annapolis?” and “Who was the associate?”

Glenn did not acknowledge the questions.

Sun reporter Luke Broadwater contributed to this story.

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