Three Toledo city council members and a lawyer indicted on federal bribery and extortion charges pleaded not guilty on Thursday.
Yvonne Harper, 71, who represents District 4, filed a waiver Thursday to give up her right to appear in U.S. District Court for arraignment for one count of conspiracy, two counts of extortion, and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion. In the filing, Ms. Harper pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Likewise pleading not guilty and filing a waiver to give up their right to appear for arraignment were Tyrone Riley, 64, who represents District 1, charged with one count of conspiracy and five counts of extortion; at-large member Gary Johnson, 66, charged with one count of conspiracy and two counts of extortion, and attorney Keith Mitchell, 69, charged with one count of conspiracy and two counts of extortion and accused of funneling money to Ms. Harper.
Larry Sykes, 71, an at-large councilman, charged with one count of conspiracy and two counts of extortion, did not file a waiver of appearance at arraignment and did not file a written plea of not guilty on Thursday.
A federal grand jury in Cleveland returned a 13-count indictment on Tuesday for the defendants’ alleged participation in a bribery and extortion scheme where the defendants solicited and accepted money and other valuable information from local business owners in exchange for votes on matters before city council.
On Wednesday, Ms. Harper, Mr. Riley, and Mr. Sykes voluntarily suspended their positions on city council. Meanwhile, local officials are starting the process to appoint their temporary positions.