BY BEN SCHMITT
ederal prosecutors say they want ex-Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers to get “substantial” prison time when a judge sentences her Wednesday.
By their calculations, Conyers, who pleaded guilty last summer to taking $6,000 as part of a bribery conspiracy charge and faces a maximum five-year sentence, should get at least 46 to 57 months. Their sentencing memo was unsealed Monday.
The prosecution’s reasoning is that the related trial of her former chief of staff Sam Riddle revealed that she had a hand in at least $69,500 in bribery and extortion payments, issuing such edicts as, “You better get my loot, that’s all I know.”
It remains to be seen what factors, such as Conyers’ lack of a prior criminal record, will be weighed by U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn. Her former status as a public official doesn’t help.
“Anything less than three years and she better buy her lawyer a beer and pay him a lot of money, because that’s really an outstanding job,” Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor and Wayne State University law professor, said.
Conyers to be just first in a week of sentencings
When Conyers heads to federal court Wednesday, she will kick off a parade of sentencing hearings in connection with the high-profile political corruption probe in and around Detroit that so far has ensnared politicians, their appointees and lobbyists.
Conyers is to stand before U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn at 2 p.m. She faces up to five years in prison.
On Thursday, ex-Southfield City Councilman William Lattimore is scheduled to appear before U.S. District Judge Marianne Battani for sentencing on a bribery-related charge. He pleaded guilty to taking $7,500 from political consultant Sam Riddle — Monica Conyers’ former chief of staff — and former state Rep. Mary Waters in August 2007 to help Zeidman’s Jewelry & Loan relocate and expand.
Also Thursday, former Detroit cop and ex-mayoral bodyguard Jerry Rivers is scheduled to be sentenced by Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen. Rivers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery for working with others to collect a $50,000 bribe to ensure that the Detroit City Council approved the $3.5-million sale of city-owned Camp Brighton in Livingston County to the Chaldean Catholic Church.
Rivers named his friends, Kandia and DeDan Milton — both appointees of ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick — as coconspirators in the Camp Brighton deal. The Miltons, who are brothers, also have since pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery.
“They are separate cases, but they are emblematic of the depth of the Department of Justice’s investigation,” Henning said Monday. “We’re seeing that come together. The question now is: Is there more to come, or are there any more shoes that are going to drop?”
Riddle went to trial in federal court last month in connection with several alleged bribery and extortion schemes. Riddle is accused of working with Conyers to shake down people for money, using her influence on the City Council and a city pension board.
During his trial, which ended in a hung jury, prosecutors played many intercepted phone calls of conversations between Conyers and Riddle, and Conyers and Detroit businessman Rayford Jackson, who is serving five years in prison for bribery in connection with a $1.2-billion city sludge-hauling contract with Texas-based Synagro Technologies.
Jackson admitted to passing cash bribes to Conyers, who cast the tie-breaking vote on the council for the Synagro contract in November 2007.
Federal prosecutors said Cohn should consider her position as an elected government official and other bribery schemes involving Riddle, in addition to the Synagro case, when the judge sentences her.
“The pattern of abuse of office and self-enrichment highlighted during that (Riddle) trial confirms that Synagro was not an isolated or anomalous incident,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Bullotta and Mark Chutkow wrote in a sentencing memorandum for Conyers that was unsealed Monday.
“Consequently, the court should consider this additional misconduct in fashioning an appropriate sentence for Conyers,” the prosecutors said.
In the sentencing memo, prosecutors said Conyers and Riddle received at least $69,500 in bribery and extortion payments, including $13,000 in the Synagro case.
“After being confronted by law enforcement, she accepted responsibility for her role in the misconduct and resigned her position,” prosecutors wrote. However, “her abuse of her office for self-enrichment was a betrayal of her fiduciary duty to the citizens and the pensioners of the City who entrusted their taxpayer dollars and retirement moneys to her.
“Given the important position of public trust she violated, a substantial sentence is warranted.”
Conyers’ lawyer Steven Fishman declined to comment Monday.
Congressman Conyers’ office also had no comment.
Meanwhile, Riddle, who faces a July 12 retrial in the federal case involving Monica Conyers, announced in court Monday that he has retained former federal prosecutor Richard Convertino as his attorney.
Cohn expressed concern because Convertino already represents Waters in another federal bribery case involving Riddle. That trial is scheduled for June 1. The matter is to be addressed at a 2 p.m. hearing today.
“He’s a fighter,” Riddle said of Convertino after Monday’s court appearance. “And I’m a fighter. Round 2, let’s do this.”
He declined to reveal how much he paid Convertino to retain him.