GRAND RAPIDS — The United States government continues to press legal action against Larry Inman, who remains the state representative of northern Michigan’s 104th House District.
Inman faced three federal corruption charges — attempted extortion, bribery and lying to an FBI agent — in his December 2019 trial in Grand Rapids. Jurors acquitted Inman of the lying charge but could not come to a consensus on the extortion and bribery counts.
U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker, who oversaw the proceedings and trial last year, declared a mistrial on those counts. Inman’s attorney, Christoper Cooke, submitted a motion for dismissal in July — nearly eight months after the trial’s end.
The federal indictment accused Inman of offering his vote for sale in a 2018 attempt to repeal the state’s prevailing wage law. He was accused of sending text messages to members of the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights on June 3, 2018, seeking a $30,000 campaign contribution exchange for his “no” vote on the effort to repeal the state law, which sets wage and benefit rates paid to construction workers on state projects.
The union publicly opposed the repeal.
U.S. District Attorneys Christopher O’Connor and Ronald Stella submitted a response to Cooke’s motion last week.
O’Connor argues the government is entitled to a retrial before a new jury on the first and second counts because Cooke did not move for acquittal under Rule 29 within 14 days of the jury being relieved.
Cooke’s motion for dismissal “provided no explanation, let alone a legally cognizable excuse, for why he waited more than 200 days to seek an acquittal,” O’Connor wrote.
O’Connor also said Jonker suggesting Cooke could file a motion for the judge to consider dismissal on his own is not supported — in fact, it is “prohibited” — by United States Supreme Court precedent. The government’s brief said allowing Jonker to make such a decision “effectively makes this court the judge, jury and executioner of federal criminal charges” that could harm any potential review by an appeals court.
Cooke said Jonker extended the deadline for filing the motion for dismissal because, as Jonker said himself in a July 17 order, he had serious questions about whether the evidence in this case is sufficient to sustain a conviction.”
Cooke also had to provide “excusable neglect” as to why he did not file his motion for dismissal in a timely fashion, which O’Connor said Cooke did not do.
Cooke failed to meet the “very high burden” that a rational jury could acquit Inman beyond a reasonable doubt, O’Connor said, adding a “jury of 12 fair-minded citizens should make that ultimate determination.”
“Nothing has changed since (Jonker) correctly found that a reasonable jury could find that (Inman) attempted to extort and solicit a bribe in exchange for his vote,” O’Connor said.
Another trial should not be allowed, Cooke said, referring to the seven-day December proceedings as an “irregular gauntlet.” He also said the jury’s inability to reach a verdict on the first two counts shows the government cannot prove Inman’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. O’Connor plans to submit the same evidence and testimony as he did last year.
“We came out on top,” Cooke said. “They had a full and fair opportunity to prove it the first time, ... and I don’t see how they’re going to come out any different.”
Cooke expects Jonker to ask for oral arguments within the next few weeks before making a decision on a retrial, but that all could change as the court system continues to adjust to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Cooke said he has a difficult time understanding why O’Connor won’t let the case go.
“This whole thing is absurd,” Cooke said. “These continuous prosecutions over the same issues has to be put to an end. Otherwise, you just grind the citizen into the dirt.”
Inman said as much earlier this month.
“It’s not over yet, but I’m hoping to get this thing cleared up so I can get my life back and my career back,” Inman said. “That’s my hope.”