Sunday, January 17, 2021

Former Baltimore Delegate Cheryl Glenn charged with wire fraud, bribery

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Veteran Maryland lawmaker Cheryl Glenn has been charged with bribery and wire fraud, the U.S. attorney’s office in Maryland announced Monday.

She is accused of taking more than $33,000 to push legislation to benefit certain medical marijuana entrepreneurs and opioid clinic directors and help a businessperson obtain a restaurant liquor license.

The Baltimore City Democrat is at least the seventh current or former lawmaker from Maryland to face criminal charges related to fraud or bribery in the past two years.

Glenn, 68, a former chair of the Baltimore City delegation and the Legislative Black Caucus, abruptly resigned from the House of Delegates on Wednesday night. She refused to comment on the details of the resignation, except to say that it was due to personal reasons.

The U.S. attorney’s office accused Glenn of taking $33,750 in bribes between March 2018 and February 2019. About $3,000 was used to pay a property tax bill, prosecutors said in a statement.

The legislation she allegedly agreed to support in exchange for the bribes included a bill making it easier for out-of-state medical marijuana companies to get licenses in Maryland, a separate bill creating a residency preference for cannabis companies in Maryland and legislation decreasing the years of experience needed for a person to become director of an opioid maintenance therapy clinic.

She also allegedly took money in exchange for introducing legislation to create a liquor license for a restaurant that the person giving her the money wanted to open in her district, prosecutors said.

Glenn is scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 22.

In October, Tawanna P. Gaines, then a Democratic delegate from Prince George’s County, resigned her seat before pleading guilty to federal wire fraud charge. Gaines, who is awaiting sentencing, admitted to using $22,000 in campaign donations between January 2015 and April 2018 to purchase fast food, pay for dental work and hairstyling, and purchase a pool cover at her home, an Amazon Prime membership and an Amazon Fire TV stick.

Three other state lawmakers were sentenced in 2018 for their involvement in bribery schemes. Former delegates Michael L. Vaughn and William A. Campos, both Democrats from Prince George’s, were sentenced to four and 4½ years, respectively, in federal prison for participating in a pay-to-play bribery scheme involving liquor licenses. Former state senator Nathaniel T. Oaks (D-Baltimore City) was sentenced to 3½ years for a bribery scheme involving a developer.

In 2017, Gary Brown, of Baltimore, was sentenced to probation for illegally bypassing state campaign finance limits while working for then-Baltimore mayoral candidate Catherine E. Pugh. He was charged days before he was scheduled to take the oath of office to fill a House seat that became vacant as a result of Pugh being elected mayor.

Pugh, a Democrat, pleaded guilty last month to fraud-and-tax-evasion conspiracies to illegally hide profits from sales of her children’s books to enhance her political and personal fortunes. She faces additional state charges in Anne Arundel County relating to disclosure forms she filed in Annapolis while a state senator.

Glenn, who has served in the General Assembly since 2007, was a tireless advocate to legalize medical marijuana She said the quest was inspired by the memory of her late mother, who died of kidney cancer before she could be prescribed the drug to alleviate her pain.

As a first-term lawmaker, in 2010, Glenn introduced her first bill on medical marijuana. Four years later, the General Assembly approved a bill to create a state-regulated medical cannabis program. But the program took years to get off the ground, amid bureaucratic missteps and legal challenges over licensing.

In 2016, when the multibillion-dollar industry began operating, Glenn used her bully pulpit as chair of the black caucus to push for minority-owned companies to have a better shot at winning marijuana growing licenses. The bill failed to receive a vote in the final minutes of the 90-day session. Glenn blamed then-Speaker Michael E. Busch for the vote not being called.

“It’s not important to me what the speaker’s reasons or justifications were,” Glenn said at the time. “What is important is to understand where this leaves the black community: It leaves us outside of the medical cannabis industry, and that is absolutely unacceptable.”

The 2019 legislative session included debate over who should receiving preference for medical cannabis business licenses and whether minority-owned companies and Maryland-based companies were getting their fair share. Glenn successfully sponsored a bill to legalize and regulate cannabis-infused edibleslike brownies and chocolate.

Glenn was known as an outspoken champion for Baltimore City and for causes pushed by the Legislative Black Caucus. At the time of her resignation, she was the chair of the Baltimore City House delegation. She served as chair of the black caucus from 2016 to 2018.

But her positions would often clash with some of the younger, more liberal-leaning members of the caucus. For example, Glenn sided with lawmakers who pushed to restore Maryland’s bail program after the state’s highest court instructed judges not to set bonds that are too high for poor defendants to pay. During a divisive battle over how to address crime in Baltimore, she backed efforts to impose tougher penalties.

Earlier this year, Glenn chaired a subcommittee of the black caucus that recommended limiting membership to those members who belong to only one ethnic caucus, a move that one member who identifies as black and Latina described as an attempt to “purify” the caucus membership by excluding people with intersectional identities. The amendment to the caucus’s bylaws was withdrawn following a backlash from members.

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