Federal prosecutors say state Rep. Larry Inman’s sworn testimony at trial has been contradicted by other lawmakers, including then-House speaker Tom Leonard.
Prosecutors want to retry Inman, R-Williamburg, after a jury deadlocked on charges of attempted extortion and soliciting a bribe. It acquitted Inman of lying to the FBI.
“… (T)he Government has obtained new evidence since the conclusion of the first trial that seriously calls into doubt the truthfulness of (Inman’s) sworn testimony,” assistant U.S. attorneys, Christopher O’Connor and Ronald Stella wrote in documents filed Tuesday, March 17, in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids.
Defense attorney Christopher Cooke has said he was “absolutely opposed” to retrying his 65-year-old client who has been through enough. The defense has until April 16 to respond to the government’s brief.
Cooke said he had not thoroughly read the government’s filing because he has been in an unrelated trial.
“All I can say at this time is that Larry told the truth to the FBI and that is what the jury found. Taking statements now from witnesses that were identified by Larry from the start of the investigation does not amount to newly discovered evidence.”
Inman was accused of asking for campaign contributions in exchange for his vote on a 2018 repeal of the prevailing-wage law.
U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker in January suggested that the line between seeking legitimate campaign funds and taking part in illegal activity may not be “bright and clear.”
At trial, the judge said, “Testimony established that everyone voting on this legislation knew that the flow of campaign dollars — the ‘lettuce to feed the rabbits’ in the metaphorical language of one long-time politico — would be directly affected by their decision on how to vote.”
Lobbyist keep score of legislators’ votes and donate to those who support their interests, the judge said.
“Is this conduct open to quid pro quo scrutiny?” Jonker asked. “What about legislators who received maximum contributions from unions or other interest groups on either side following the vote? Could the government bring charges and ask a jury to assess whether those votes were a quid pro quo, at least if there was any evidence of a prior communication between the legislator and a lobbyist?”
Inman sent texts to a union leader and a lobbyist saying he and other Republican lawmakers each needed $30,000 in campaign contributions to vote against repealing the prevailing-wage law.
The prevailing-wage law required workers on public projects, such as school buildings, receive union-level wages.
Inman voted in favor of the repeal, which narrowly passed.
Inman said an opioid addiction left him with no memory of sending out the text messages.
Prosecutors say Inman’s testimony at trial has not been supported by others who have since been interviewed by the FBI. For instance, the government said, Inman said at trial that he and state Rep. Steve Marino talked about Inman calling Lisa Canada, political and legislative director of Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights, to make sure all of the representatives who would vote to block repeal would get a check.
“In an interview with the FBI on March9, 2020, Rep. Marino said that testimony was entirely false,” O’Connor and Stella wrote.
Inman also testified that Marino told him that he could explain a yes vote on repeal as an effort to protect a vulnerable lawmaker.
“Rep. Marino told the FBI that testimony was also a complete fabrication. Marino specifically denied helping the Defendant develop any type of story or explanation for why he voted ‘Yes’ instead of ‘No’ on repealing the prevailing wage law.”
Inman also testified that he told Leonard, the House speaker, and an assistant, that he would vote in favor of repeal so that the vulnerable lawmaker could oppose it, and it would still pass.
Leonard and his assistant told the FBI that Leonard said he had enough votes for the repeal and that Inman should vote how he wanted.
“In light of this new evidence, the Government is entitled to a retrial to ensure that a new jury is provided the opportunity to consider this new evidence, compare it to the Defendant’s prior sworn testimony (and any explanation offered by the Defendant, if he elects to testify at the retrial), and determine whether his testimony as to any other matter should be believed,” the prosecutors wrote.
“Like asking for a bag of cash in a paper bag, it is supporting evidence that the Defendant was operating outside the bounds of legitimate campaign fundraising activity protected by the First Amendment.”