CONYERS' WIFE IN BRIBERY PROBE
Jon Christian Ryter
July 4, 2009
Washington Times reporters Jerry Separ and Andrea Billups reported on Thursday, June 18 that Monica Conyers, the wife of House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers [D-MI] is now discussing a plea deal with federal prosecutors over alleged bribes she took in connection with a $1.2 billion sludge hauling contract with the city of Detroit. Court papers say the councilwoman, identified in court papers as Council Member A, accepted bribes from a consultant, Rayford W. Jackson, in connection with a City Council vote to approve the contract.
Jackson has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe a city official. In his plea before US District Court Judge Avern Cohn of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, a Jimmy Carter appointee, Jackson admitted that he "...conspired with others to provide money to elected officials in exchange for favorable votes before the City of Detroit." The company seeking the contract was Houston, Texas-based Synagro Technologies, Inc. Fed's are also questioning a former Monica Conyers aide, Sam Riddle, Jr., about his role, if any, in the incident. Riddle retained Detroit attorney David Steingold to represent him. According to Steingold, the government has not offered his client a plea deal, suggesting that Riddle is either criminally complicit or the US Attorney wants him to believe he is. When asked about Riddle's involvement in the investigation, Steingold told the Washington Times that "...it is a sensitive time in these negotiations and I do not want to damage my client." Jackson's brother, Lennie, reportedly told the FBI that he personally carried thousands of dollars in bribes to Conyers and her then-aide, Riddle. It was reported by Michigan Liberal.com that court documents contain a statement by Riddle saying he would tell what he knew at the appropriate time. But right now he hasn't cut a deal with the Feds.
In January, 2009 Jim St. John, CEO of DejaVu Consulting testified before a federal grand jury that he and a business colleague met with Riddle in a Dearborn restaurant in November, 2006 (a day before the Detroit City Council was to vote on the Zoo's Bar bid to transfer its topless permit to St. John.) St. John's lawyer, Brad Shafer, told the Detroit News on Jan. 28, 2009 that "...at some point in the conversation, Sam Riddle indicated for $25 thousand he could, or we could, get Monica Conyers' vote." St. John's company planned to open a Larry Flynt Hustler Club in Detroit if they got the permit.
Unless the US Attorney has set its sights on the President-CEO of Synagro in Houston, Texas, Conyers might be the only big fish left in the Michigan pond since Synagro's Michigan vice president James R. Rosendall, Jr., has also already pleaded guilty in this matter.
Monica Conyers was discussing a plea agreement with federal authorities was first revealed by the Detroit News & Free Press on Wednesday. WDET-Radio in Detroit indicated the plea deal had a midnight deadline. There were no releases by federal authorities on whether or not Conyers accepted the plea deal. According to WDET Conyers was advised by federal officials that if she refuses the plea agreement, she would be indicted.
In the May, 2009 federal indictment against Rayford Jackson, the government said the consultant sent a courier (his brother) to a restaurant parking lot on Oct. 4, 2007 with an envelop containing an unspecified amount of money. The money was given to Council Member A. A second payment was picked up by Council Member A at a McDonald's restaurant. A third envelop was delivered to Council Member A in December, 2007. "The [payments] to Council Member A [were] made," the prosecutors said in their court filing, "in exchange for Council Member A's vote in favor of the Synagro contract."
When the sludge-hauling contract was being debated by City Council, it was a 5-to-4 vote against giving the contract to Synagro Technologies, Inc. When the matter came up for another vote, the Council voted 5-to-4 in favor of Synagro. Conyers was the swing vote in favor of the deal. The deal eventually broke apart in what was described as a mutual decision between Detroit and Synagro.
Conyers drew fire earlier for helping her ex-convict brother, Reginald Esters, get a city job. Esters was arrested on May 11, 2009 on suspicion of drunk driving. Police also charged him with having a weapon in his vehicle. He pleaded guilty to that charge and is awaiting sentencing on the weapons violation. As an ex-convict, Esters is not allowed to own firearms. He spent 5-years in prison for felonious assault earlier this decade after pointing a loaded shotgun at a group of people. His sister secured him the job with the City of Detroit. When she was asked about her kinship to Esters, Conyers denied they were related. Esters was eventually fired due to extreme absenteeism.
When disgraced Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick resigned on Sept, 4, 2008 in a plea agreement over two counts of obstruction of justice stemming from a sex scandal, City Council president Kenneth Cockrell, a former community activist, became acting mayor of Detroit. Monica Conyers assumed the much more powerful role of City Council President. Political consultants are convinced that Monica Conyers problems will not affect her husband's career, or his position as head of the powerful House Judiciary Committee. One commented that "...If Monica Conyers was a Washington wife, a lobbyist or something, they could tie her conduct to him...Then I could see this really metastasizing into something that would become a national story." If John Conyers was a conservative Republican instead of an arch liberal and one of the founders of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Democrats would already be demanding not only that he step down from his chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee, but that he resign from Congress.
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Here is the simple reality about Capitol Hill. If Monica Conyers walked into Wachovia Bank on North Capitol Street in Washington at high noon, carrying a "Vote for John Conyers" banner as she held up the bank, it wouldn't impact her husband's powerful position on Capitol Hill. Conversely, if John Boehner's wife, Debbie, jokingly suggested she seriously contemplated looting her daughter's piggy banks in 1975 when Boehner was struggling to get a business degree at Xavier University, the Democrats would be demanding that Boehner step down from his role as Minority Leader in the House.