Jan. 28 – CINCINNATI, Ohio – Three Sixth Circuit judges from the United States Court of Appeals will decide whether a former Michigan State Representative for Grand Traverse County can be retried on federal bribery charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris O’Connor told Judges Alice M. Batchelder, John K. Bush and Helene N. White during brief closing arguments Thursday that the government should be able to retry Larry Inman on two of the three counts. which he faced during a trial in December 2019. .
The charges of soliciting a bribe and attempted extortion both stem from allegations that he attempted to solicit campaign contributions in return for voting against the 2018 repeal of the state wages.
A jury could not reach a verdict on those two and acquitted Inman of the third charge accusing him of lying to FBI investigators when they questioned him about the alleged scheme and the texts that ‘he had sent to the center of it, as previously stated.
Robert Jonker, the U.S. District Court judge for the Western District of Michigan who presided over the trial, ruled in April 2021 that the verdict essentially barred Inman from trying again on the other two charges due to dual criminality and issues with the first. amendment that a new trial would raise.
Christopher Cooke, Inman’s attorney, agreed and said the government could not try Inman again without getting into issues already settled when jurors acquitted him of lying to the FBI. Specifically, Inman told the agent that he did not contact Lisa Canada of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwright, that he did not ask her for a campaign contribution, and that he did not attempted to sell his vote, among other things he denied. .
“I don’t think you can look behind the jury’s verdict and try to figure out why they did what they did, I think we have to look at what the jury decided in their not guilty verdict, and look at what the government says my client lied,” Cooke said.
Inman told the FBI agent that he did not contact Canada or request campaign money until he saw the messages he sent her. In them, he said he and other lawmakers needed more money in light of the pressure they were likely to face in voting, including the possibility of losing committee assignments. because of a “no” vote.
Once the texts were shown, Inman maintained that he did not remember sending them, Cooke said.
Inman said an addiction to opioid painkillers, for which he later sought treatment, coupled with alcohol abuse clouded his memory, a defense he often raised at trial, as noted earlier.
O’Connor argued that the jury could have acquitted Inman because they believed he did not remember sending the texts. This could mean that while Inman’s denials to the FBI agent about the texts weren’t true, they weren’t deliberate lies either – a key part of the charge the jury cleared Inman of. .
Another jury could determine that there is enough evidence to convict Inman of trying to sell his vote based on other evidence, O’Connor said. He argued that other acts could be seen as corrupt, including Inman’s claim that he had to vote to repeal the existing wages law to cover up another Republican lawmaker’s ‘no’ vote. , despite statements by the lawmaker and former Speaker of the House that it was not true.
“If there is a possible rational explanation, and there certainly is, why a jury would acquit count three, the government is entitled to a retrial of counts one and two. “, did he declare.
Cooke pointed to the consistency of Inman’s statements to the FBI in two interviews and at trial, and argued that the jury found he was telling the truth when he denied involvement in illegal vote selling. But the judges questioned whether the jury meant it, with one noting the difference between being truthful and not intentionally making a false statement.
O’Connor also said Jonker erred when the judge ruled a “positive factor” was needed to prove the solicitation of bribe and attempted extortion charges. While Jonker wrote that the “plus factor” disappeared when the jury acquitted Inman of lying to the FBI, O’Connor argued that this factor should never have been applied in the first place.
Cooke argued that Jonker was not changing the rules, as O’Connor put it, but using the “plus factor” to distinguish between illegal quid pro quos or legal campaign money demands, the latter of which are protected by the first amendment.
It is now up to the three judges to decide whether the government can try Inman again for attempted extortion and solicitation of bribes – Cooke, reached after oral arguments, said he was unsure how long a decision could take , adding that it could range from a few weeks to several months.
Inman completed his third and final term as a representative in 2020, as previously reported. While he spent much of that term locked out of his office after Republican leaders kicked him out of caucus following his indictment, they reinstated him in ‘good standing’ just before he left. . An attempt to call him back did not collect enough valid signatures.