AOL News, March 11, 2010
As guards cleared the packed courtroom, Monica Conyers yelled that she planned to appeal. The wife of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., wanted to withdraw her guilty plea, suggesting she was the victim of “badgering” last year when she admitted taking cash to support a Houston company’s sludge contract with the city.
But U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn, reviewing a transcript of the June hearing, said Conyers had denied any coercion and voluntarily pleaded guilty to conspiracy.
Conyers, 45, is the biggest catch so far in the FBI’s wide-ranging investigation of corruption in Detroit city government. Nine people have pleaded guilty, including two former directors of the downtown convention center, and prosecutors have promised more charges are coming.
Conyers’ plea deal was limited to taking bribes to support a contract with Synagro worth $47 million a year. But the recent trial of her former aide, Sam Riddle, exposed a series of alleged schemes involving others making payoffs to do business at city hall.
Prosecutors said Riddle and Conyers collected $69,500 by shaking people down and urged Cohn to consider the alleged crimes when sentencing her. Defense lawyer Steve Fishman firmly objected and demanded a separate hearing.
Conyers declared, “I’m not going to jail for something I didn’t do.”
“The sentence will be based solely on conviction,” Cohn said.
Earlier this year, jurors at the Riddle trial heard secretly taped phone calls in which he and Conyers discussed money, bank deposits and how to split cash.
In a November 2007 call, Conyers told Riddle, “You’d better get my loot.” On another call, businessman Rayford Jackson, who passed bribes to Conyers for her sludge vote, said, “You’re my girl. Don’t forget that.”
Conyers told the judge some taped conversations would exonerate her.
“They have taken tapes and used them out of context,” she said of the U.S. attorney’s office. “I will take the blame for things I did do.”