Conyers Gets 3 Years, 1 Month In Jail
Updated On: Mar 10 2010 06:34:12 AM EST
A federal judge has denied ex-Detroit councilwoman Monica Conyers' request to withdraw her guilty plea in a corruption case and sentenced her to three years and one month in prison.
Conyers suggested she was the victim of "badgering" last summer when she acknowledged a conspiracy to take bribes for her support of a Houston company seeking a sludge contract.
"I would like to withdraw my plea. I should not get jail for something I didn't do," she said.
But U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn said Wednesday her plea deal was voluntary on her behalf.
"Bribery is a betrayal of trust," Cohn told Conyers after announcing a 37-month prison term for her "egregious" crime.
?I do apologize for things I did do, but I don?t feel in my heart that I should take the blame for things I did not do,? Conyers said in court. ?I?m not going to be made a scapegoat. The newspapers are pressuring you to make an example of me.?
Conyers revealed in court that Cohn had earlier ordered that she see a psychiatrist. She said the doctor had an opinion as to why she pleaded guilty.
But Cohn replied, "These are matters the public has no need to know. There was nothing in the letter to suggest any basis to withdraw the plea."
Conyers will also be supervised for two years following the completion of her prison time.
She was not fined.
As guards cleared the courtroom, Conyers yelled that she planned to appeal. She then left the courthouse through a side door, without making a comment.
She is scheduled to report to prison no earlier than July 1.
Outside the court, Conyers? minister spoke briefly with reporters.
?I was praying for her when she was elected, I?m praying for her now. I?m praying for her family -- her sons, her mother,? said Robert Jones, of the Sweet Kingdom Missionary Baptist Church. ?I pray that her strength, her faith, are going to bring her through this.?
The federal government had recommended that Conyers get 46 to 57 months in prison.
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?Her abuse of office for self-enrichment was a betrayal of her fiduciary duty to the citizens and pensioners of the city who entrusted their tax dollars and retirement money to her,? federal officials wrote in Conyers? sentencing document.
Prosecutors said Conyers and an aide collected $69,500 from people seeking help from the city.
Conyers, the wife of powerful Democratic Rep. John Conyers, pleaded guilty June 26, 2009, to accepting cash bribes in exchange for supporting a sludge contract with a Houston company.
Conyers, 44, was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with accepting two payments from a Synagro Technologies official in late 2007.
Conyers was identified as "Council Person A" in previous charging documents and accused of taking bribes to approve the Synagro $47 million sludge-handling contract for the city.
Conyers was the deciding voice in the 5-4 vote to approve the deal in November 2007.
The sentencing recommendations were filed Feb. 16, but were unsealed Monday after the government had said it would wait to unseal them until after jury deliberations in the trial of Conyers? co-defendant Sam Riddle.
Riddle?s trial ended last month with a hung jury.
?Riddle?s criminal trial illustrated how Ms. Conyers and Riddle used her office to pressure persons with business before the city to furnish items of value to Conyers and Riddle,? states Conyers? sentencing document.
According to charging documents against Conyers, "Beginning on a date unknown and continuing until in or about December 2007, in the Eastern District of Michigan, Monica Ann Conyers did knowingly and voluntarily conspire and agree with an aide and others to corruptly solicit and demand for the benefit of herself and others, and to accept and agree to accept, things of value from persons while an agent of the City of Detroit."
The document states that on Nov. 20, 2007, Conyers "met an individual sent by Rayford Jackson in the parking lot of the Butzel Family Center in Detroit and received an envelope containing cash."
It also states that on Dec. 4, 2007, Conyers and her aide accepted an ?envelope containing cash" in a Detroit McDonald's parking lot.
Riddle was identified as Conyers aide.
Conyers is the biggest catch so far in the FBI's wide-ranging investigation of corruption in Detroit city government. Nine people have pleaded guilty, including two former directors of the downtown convention center, and prosecutors have promised that more charges are coming.
Two people who worked for Synagro have already pleaded guilty: Rayford Jackson and James Rosendall Jr.
Jackson pleaded guilty June 15, 2009, to arranging four bribes in 2007 that totaled more than $6,000. He was sentenced to five years in prison.
Rosendall pleaded guilty last year, accused of trying to influence city officials by chartering private planes to take them to Las Vegas and Mackinac Island, donating about $200,000 to campaign entities of a city official and paying $25,000 to an unidentified city official's relative. He was sentenced to 11 months in prison.
The city of Detroit and Synagro Technologies called off the million-dollar contract after the corruption investigation began.
Homrich Inc. took over the new contract on Feb. 3, 2009.
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