Conyers’ Sentencing Date Now In Jan.
Conyers Facing Up To 5 Years In Prison
US District Court judge Avern Cohn had set Conyers’ sentencing date for Dec. 1. But now, Cohn says, she will be in court Jan. 15.
Cohn didn’t give a reason for the change, except to say it serves the interest of justice.
Conyers, the wife of powerful Democratic Rep. John Conyers, pleaded guilty June 26 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, including one in a McDonald’s parking lot.
She entered her plea before Cohn with her attorney, Steven Fishman.
At her charging, Conyers was solemn in court, having to be asked three times by the judge to speak up.
Fishman declined to comment on the specifics of the case outside of court.
“You saw her in court; report what you saw,” Fishman said.
Conyers is facing three to five years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines.
Download: Conyers Court Document 6/26/09
“Monica Conyers said today, ‘I did it,’” said FBI Special Agent Andy Arena, when Conyers pleaded guilty. “It’s a historic day in the city of Detroit. This is not the beginning and this is certainly not the end, folks; this is a battle against public corruption.”
Arena said Conyers’ plea deal does not require her to reveal names, but that the investigation will continue.
“This is a battle, this is a war, and we’re going to continue waging it,” Arena said.
Conyers’ husband chairs the House Judiciary Committee in Congress. He has no role in the case. The couple has two sons.
“This has been a trying time for the Conyers family and, with hope and prayer, they will make it through this as a family,” said a spokesman for John Conyers. “Public officials must expect to be held to the highest ethical and legal standards. With this in mind, Mr. Conyers wants to work towards helping his family and city recover from this serious matter.”
Sources said Conyers has been identified as “Council Person A” in previous charging documents and accused of taking bribes to approve a $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 charge is outlined in a legal document called “criminal information,” which only can be filed with the defendant’s consent and typically signals a plea deal.
The document reads, “Beginning on a date unknown and continuing until in or about December 2007, in the Eastern District of Michigan 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.
Sources have identified Detroit political consultant Sam Riddle as Conyers’ former aide.
“I don’t have a clue to what’s happening,” Riddle said outside the Detroit YMCA in June. He said he had heard rumors that Conyers was going to plead guilty to “something” but said he didn’t know anything else.
“All I know is that I am an independent contractor, consultant, the same as I was when I worked with Conyers on the Detroit City Council,” Riddle said. “My status remains unchanged in terms of my frame of mind.”
When asked if during his time with Conyers he had ever seen her doing anything illegal, Riddle said, “There have been times when she’s not been the model of decorum … but in terms of illegality, I would really have to reflect on that.”
Riddle said he’s not going to “beat up on Monica Conyers.”
“If Monica Conyers is pleading guilty to something, that thing will have to speak for itself.”
Riddle said any investigation involving himself remains to be seen.
U.S. Attorney Terrence Berg said in June that the Conyers plea doesn’t end the Synagro investigation, but it does mark the conclusion of the probe into elected officials in the case.
He called the plea deal an “appropriate and fair resolution to the matter,” with a “high-level public figure pleading guilty” to bribery.
Berg said the investigation took just under two years.
Arena said he has a message for people who engage in corruption.
“If you violated the public’s trust, the people who put you in office, we’re coming after you,” he said. “They know who they are. Just remember that we’re looking over your shoulder.”
Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Conyers’ guilty plea should be a message to any elected official not to take the public’s trust lightly.
“These are positions that are held in trust by the public,” Granholm said. “That honor and integrity when you are serving is critical.”
Granholm said she thinks everyone is eager to start anew.
“We’ve got a new mayor, we’ve got a new head of the Detroit Public Schools and now we’ve got some momentum with our economy,” she said. “The point is that the scandal is now past us.”
Two people who worked for Synagro have already pleaded guilty: Rayford Jackson and James Rosendall Jr.
Jackson pleaded guilty June 15 to arranging four bribes in 2007 that totaled more than $6,000.
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.
Jackson will be sentenced Nov. 13 while Rosendall will be sentenced Nov. 30.
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.