TRAVERSE CITY — Larry Inman appears to be headed to trial.
A federal judge this week denied a motion to dismiss criminal charges against the Republican state representative from Williamsburg.
Inman has been criminally charged by federal prosecutors for crimes related to alleged abuse of his elected office. His attorney told the court he pleaded not guilty because of a diminished capacity because of a prescription painkiller addiction.
The lawmaker faces three criminal charges, including extortion and lying to the FBI, after federal prosecutors argue he sought money in exchange for his vote in 2018 on a repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law. He is also accused of lying to investigators about texts he sent to solicit contributions.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker ruled the case will inevitably raise First Amendment issues about the line between bribery or extortion and protected political activity, but those concerns should be addressed in the courtroom.
“After review, however, the Court is satisfied those concerns are best addressed through a careful crafting of jury instructions, rather than dismissal of the indictment,” Jonker’s Oct. 15 order reads.
Jonker ordered a pre-trial conference and jury trial will be scheduled.
“Obviously we’re disappointed,” said Christopher Cooke, Inman’s Traverse City-based defense attorney. The lawyer respects but disagrees with the judge’s ruling, he said.
Inman could not be reached immediately for comment.
The state lawmaker announced an addiction to prescription painkillers in June, weeks after his indictment, and has since sought treatment. He returned to work last month despite a request by his colleagues that he resign.
Inman has been stripped of committee appointments, and is barred from participating in Republican caucus meetings or even from entering his Lansing office.
“It’s complicated because the Republican leadership banned him from his office and banned him from even talking to his staff, which is contrary to his right to his presumption of innocence,” Cooke said.
Also, an ongoing recall petition effort seeks to remove him from office.
Again, Cooke argues that petition language flies in the face of Inman’s presumption of innocence in criminal matters by citing the specific charges levied against the lawmaker.