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Sen. Ulysses Currie pleads not guilty

From the Maryland Politics blog:

State Sen. Ulysses Currie pleaded not guilty to corruption charges this morning in a federal courtroom in Baltimore -- his first court appearance since being indicted this month.

Currie, the 73-year-old Prince George's County Democrat who chaired the powerful Senate budget committee until the charges were filed, is now represented by two federal public defenders. After the brief hearing, Currie was released on his own recognizance, meaning he did not have to post bail.

Currie was indicted on 17 counts including bribery and mail fraud in an alleged influence-peddling scheme involving Shoppers Food Warehouse, a supermarket chain based in his district.

Federal prosecutors say Shoppers paid Currie about $250,000 between 2003 and 2008 to "use his official position ... in ways that would benefit [Shoppers] and certain of its officers and employees.

Earlier this week, the parent company of Shoppers entered a deal to pay a $2.5 million fine and cooperate with prosecutors in lieu of facing charges.

Former Shoppers President William White is due in court this afternoon for an initial appearance; earlier, former Shoppers Vice President R. Kevin Small pleaded not guilty.

No trial dates have been set, but U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett said this week that he'd like Currie's trial to take place in June.

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