Feds: Detroit Consultant Sam Was "Bagman" for Monica Conyers

Feds: Detroit Consultant Sam Was "Bagman" for Monica Conyers

Published February 9, 2010

DETROIT (AP) — A consultant charged with conspiring to shake down businesses for bribes was a "political pimp" who put Detroit up for sale in exchange for favors from his ally, then-councilwoman Monica Conyers, a prosecutor told jurors Monday.

The government summed up its case against Sam Riddle in the first trial resulting from an investigation of corruption at city hall.

Riddle is accused of working with Conyers, the wife of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., to collect cash from people with business at the city council or Detroit's pension board in 2006 and 2007.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gardey said Conyers was "drowning" in corruption and Riddle, who was her top aide, was a "bagman."

During seven days of testimony, the jury heard secretly taped phone calls of Riddle, Conyers and people who were described as targets of their bribery scheme. The most notable deal: a sludge-recycling contract awarded to a Houston company in 2007 after Conyers was paid off to drop her opposition.

She pleaded guilty last summer to conspiracy to commit bribery and resigned. She faces up to five years in prison when sentenced March 10.

The government said Riddle and Conyers worked together to shake down or attempt to extort thousands of dollars from strip club representatives, the head of a wireless company, a downtown businessman and a developer.

"Sam Riddle was a political pimp and he sold Monica Conyers' vote to the highest bidder. ... In Sam Riddle's Detroit, the city is for sale. This cannot stand. It must not stand," Gardey told the jury.

Jurors ate lunch, picked a leader and deliberated for a few hours Monday before going home without reaching a verdict.

Riddle, 63, did not testify at trial. Defense lawyer Edward Wishnow said Riddle worked part time for Conyers and had a legitimate business helping people navigate the world of big-city politics.

"We all have special interests," Wishnow told jurors. "If anybody needed a consultant, it's a strip club. ... Sam would be the perfect candidate."

Besides Conyers, at least eight other people have been convicted in a broad investigation of Detroit corruption, all in plea deals with the government.

They include two former directors of the downtown convention center, the Michigan representative of sludge-recycler Synagro Technologies and two brothers who were top aides to Kwame Kilpatrick before he resigned as mayor in 2008.


Written by <P>LINDA DEUTSCH, AP Special Correspondent</P>


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