DETROIT (AP) -- City Councilwoman Monica Conyers pleaded guilty to bribery charges Friday, becoming the latest Detroit politician taken down by scandal and marking a victory for federal prosecutors in their nearly two-year investigation into city corruption.
Conyers, the wife of powerful Democratic congressman John Conyers who won her seat in 2005 largely on her popular husband's name, admitted in federal court to taking cash from a Houston-based company in exchange for her vote on a city sludge-treatment contract.
The normally fiery 44-year-old Conyers spoke quietly while entering her plea in federal court, and left the courthouse without commenting to reporters, free on bond. She faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when she's sentenced.
Her lawyer, Steve Fishman, said he will ask Judge Avern Cohn for a sentence that doesn't include prison time. Both Fishman and federal authorities say the plea deal does not include a formal cooperation agreement.
Monica Conyers' plea is the latest blow to a city beset by political scandal in recent years. Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and a top aide were jailed after admitting to lying under oath about their romantic involvement during a whistle-blowers' trial.
And a recent audit of the city's beleaguered public school system has uncovered theft and other wrongdoing by employees.
Prosecutors made clear that John Conyers, the 80-year-old chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, knew nothing of his wife's corruption. He declined to answer a reporter's questions as he walked to the House floor for a vote Friday morning, saying, "I have no comment whatever."
His office issued the following statement:
"This has been a trying time for the Conyers family. With hope and prayer, they will make it through this as a family. Public officials must expect to be held to the highest ethical and legal standards. With this in mind, Mr. Conyers wants to work towards helping his family and the city recover from this serious matter."
Prosecutors said Monica Conyers accepted two payments in late 2007 from a Synagro Technologies official, Rayford Jackson, in exchange for supporting a 20-year, $47-million-a-year, contract that November to have Synagro recycle wastewater sludge and build a modern incinerator in a poor Detroit neighborhood.
The council voted 5-4 to approve the contract with Conyers' vote. It was rescinded in January amid the accusations of wrongdoing.
Monica Conyers is the most prominent person snagged in the Synagro investigation. Jackson and the company's Michigan representative, Jim Rosendall, also have pleaded guilty to bribery charges in the case. Rosendall's plea agreement described how he distributed cash and other gifts to officials.
Berg said the Synagro investigation will continue, but that prosecutors aren't looking into other city council members in the case. He called the plea deal an "appropriate and fair resolution to the matter," with a "high-level public figure pleading guilty" to bribery.
"It's a very sad day for Detroit," said Cockrel. "On the other hand, I think it's another step in clearing out some problems in city government. I don't necessarily think this is over. This may go beyond one council member and may involve non-elected officials."
Andrew Arena, special agent in charge of the Detroit FBI office, said Conyers' guilty plea should signal others who may have been involved in wrongdoing who have not been named that the noose is tightening around them.
"The message I want to send is, "We're coming after you."
Monica Conyers' name still will appear along with 166 others on the Aug. 4 nonpartisan primary ballot for council, and it's unclear what would happen if she receives enough votes to get her name on the ballot for the November general election.
Like the brash and arrogant Kilpatrick, Monica Conyers took a defiant stance as the Synagro bribery accusations swirled around her, the council and city. She refused to address the accusations in recent weeks, and was often contentious with colleagues and the media.
She told The Associated Press in September that she would like others to see her as "someone who cares about the city, someone who wants to make sure all the citizens of Detroit have what they need to live" productive lives.
But it was Monica Conyers' sharp tongue that made headlines, at one point calling reporters seeking interviews "evil," and comparing the local media to "paparazzi." She was involved in a disturbance at a Denver hotel last summer during the Democratic National Convention, she was accused of threatening to shoot a mayoral staffer and she publicly referred to Cockrel, who is bald, as "Shrek."
Dave Bing, Detroit's newly elected mayor, said it's difficult to take more scandals but he's determined to look beyond them.
"It is unfortunate that our city must, again, endure another set of unethical circumstances surrounding elected officials," Bing said in a statement. "This is further evidence of the need for and respect of strong ethical standards. However, we must stay focused on the job at hand -- rebuilding and moving Detroit forward."
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Source : http://www.record-eagle.com/news/state_news/conyers-pleads-guilty-to-bribery-charges/article_ac044521-c861-5182-9a51-da8ed145e401.html