TRAVERSE CITY — The trial of the United States of America v. Larry Charles Inman is slated to begin Tuesday.
The Republican representative from the 104th District stands charged with three felonies, including attempted extortion, bribery and lying to an FBI agent.
Inman was indicted on those charges in May and has maintained his innocence, citing a diminished capacity due to his previous addiction to painkillers.
Christopher Cooke, Inman’s attorney, said his client is “under incredible stress.”
“It’s exceedingly difficult,” Cooke said. “We’re hoping for a fair trial, just like I’ve been saying all along. We want a fair hearing, a fair trial. We’re hoping to get our side of the story out and then let a jury make a decision based on all of the facts.”
The May 14 indictment accused Inman of offering a vote for sale in last year’s repeal of the state’s prevailing wage. He is accused of sending text messages to members of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights on June 3, 2018, seeking $30,000 in exchange for his “no” vote on the 2018 effort to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law, which sets wage and benefit rates paid to construction workers on state projects.
The union publicly opposed the repeal.
U.S. Attorney Christopher O’Connor said Inman, on June 1, 2018, also solicited campaign contributions from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers regarding the vote on prevailing wage. Inman voted to approve the repeal and the state House followed suit, repealing the law by a 56 to 53 vote.
Court documents show the U.S. Attorney’s office will provide summaries of an FBI interviews in August and December 2018, two phone calls to the FBI on Oct. 16-17, 2018, grand jury testimony, data from Inman’s cell phone and other evidence found through searches of Inman’s office and residence, a recorded phone call between Inman and “Person A” on June 19, 2018, bank records, phone records and MRCCM records.
Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, a Republican, is also expected to testify. District Judge Robert Jonker rejected Chatfield’s attempt to quash a subpoena. Jonker said Chatfield’s testimony is important to the jury’s evaluation, and a legislator isn’t immune from testifying in federal court when a lawmaker is facing charges.
The trial is expected to last three days with jury selection beginning Tuesday morning. Cooke said it is likely the proceedings will stretch into Friday and possibly next week.
“The expectation is that we’re going to go as long as it takes to get it done,” Cooke said.
Recall Inman campaign files appeal
As Inman prepares for trial, the effort to remove him from office looks to clear a major roadblock.
Two typos in the petition language aiming to recall Inman prompted the Michigan Bureau of Elections to mark the nearly 14,000 signatures gathered as invalid. Legal counsel for the Recall Inman Campaign, on behalf of petitioners Sondra Hardy and Staci Haag, filed a brief with the Michigan Court of Appeals on Monday to reverse the decision.
The brief states that no legal provision supports the bureau’s conclusion that “a typographical error ... requires invalidation of the entire recall petition” and that the ruling prevents the petition signors from their constitutional right to recall Inman.
“We feel that we’re not just doing this for the county, but we’re doing this for the state,” Hardy said.
“Being denied the right of 14,000 voters to a recall based on a typo and a word left out is something that is very harmful to our system. Our people went out in two blizzards, and we got the signatures. To have their will thwarted is just not fair.”
The brief also includes a motion to expedite the process because the deadline to certify to the ballot for the March 10, 2020, primary election is Jan. 10.
Michael Naughton, attorney for the campaign, said a date for the attorney general to respond to the appeal is scheduled for Dec. 16.
“We’re happy to have our foot in the door and see what we can do,” Naughton said.
Naughton said even if the appeal is denied, it is unlikely they will “just give up” the fight.
“This is an issue of important precedent,” Naughton said. “We think this is about a bedrock principle of citizens’ rights in Michigan. This is no longer about Larry Inman. This is about the process.”