An ugly page in Michigan politics came to an end this afternoon when a federal judge sentenced former Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers to 37 months in prison for her role in a city bribery scandal. Conyers, the wife of House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, did not go quietly as she attempted to rescind her guilty plea at the last moment and claimed to have taped conversations that would exonerate her.
Accounts of the courtroom scene paint a bizarre picture of a woman oscillating between desperation and hubris as she was sentenced in the very same building where her husband maintains an office. According to reports Rep. Conyers did not attend his wife’s sentencing.
John Conyers has refused to address his wife’s legal situation since last year and has sought to distance himself from the taint of her corruption, which dominated the headlines in Detroit for the better part of last year. There was, however, plenty of family on hand to support Monica Conyers:
Conyers, who arrived early for her 2 p.m. sentencing, popped her head into the courtroom from the adjacent jury room, wearing sunglasses.
“I just want to say hi to my family. Hi everybody,” Conyers said, blowing kisses.
Conyers genial mood wouldn’t last:
Before the sentencing was announced, a strange series of events transpired, highlighted by Conyers’ request to withdraw her guilty plea. She was screaming that she had her own tapes that would exonerate her before the sentence was announced. She also yelled “What about my children? They did nothing to cause this!” before the sentence announced.
“I would like to withdraw my plea…I shouldn’t go to jail for something I didn’t do,” she said.
She told Judge Avern Cohn that he should read the report from a doctor, where she was sent by the court, and how susceptible she was to badgering. She repeated that this was a doctor that she saw at the direction of the court.
She then repeated: “I’m just not going to jail for something I did not do.”
Cohn said he was satisfied that the guilty plea was voluntary and knowingly given.
In a deal that sounds directly out of some comic book caricature of big-city corruption, Conyers admitted last June she accepted at least $6,000 in bribes to change her vote on a city sludge hauling contract:
Conyers, 45, admitted in June she took at least $6,000 in cash bribes in connection with her vote on the $1.2 billion contract the council awarded to Synagro Technologies Inc. of Texas in 2007.
She had originally spoken out against the controversial deal, but her “yes” vote proved to be the deciding one as the contract passed 5-4.
Conyers wasn’t the only disgraced Detroit pol making headlines today; former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was released on a $10,000 bond following his arraignment for probation violations connected to his failure to make court-mandated restitution payments. Kilpatrick said he’s doing everything he can to come up with the $1 million he owes the city.
“I stay up at night trying to figure out how to find $870,000 laying on the ground or if somebody would just pay it, hit the Powerball … when I ride past that sign now, and I rarely play that game, I think about,” the former mayor said Tuesday outside the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in downtown Detroit. “If I had the money, I’d pay it.”
Of course part of the reason Kilpatrick is still drawing prosecutors’ ire is his failure to disclose a $240,000 “loan” he received from four prominent Detroit businessmen in exchange for resigning. Given the apparent loyalty of his friends in the business community, perhaps there is still a chance that some well-meaning benefactor will come along and decide to “just pay” the more than $800,000 Kilpatrick still owes the people of Detroit. If for no other reason than to finally rid the state of America’s First Hip-Hop Mayor.