June 23, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Ex-Southfield official gets 1½ years for bribery

Lattimore )

Detroit -- Former Southfield Councilman William Lattimore asked forgiveness from his former constituents Tuesday as he was sentenced to 18 months in prison for taking bribes.

"I am deeply sorry for breaking the public trust," Lattimore said.

"I stained the oath of office that I took to uphold the covenants of the law."

Lattimore, 56, said he was hard up for money and facing foreclosure in 2007 when he got caught up in a corruption scandal involving political consultant Sam Riddle and former state Rep. Mary Waters, who at the time was Riddle's live-in companion.

The FBI, tapping Riddle's cell phone in connection with a Detroit City Hall corruption probe, got the Southfield case as a bonus when they overheard Riddle and Lattimore talking about bribes linked to a pawn shop relocation. Thomas Labret, the owner of Zeidman's Jewelry and Loan, had hired Riddle to help get approvals to move his Southfield shop to another location.

Lattimore admitted taking $7,500 from Riddle to write an official letter in support of the relocation and otherwise push the project along.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Cares said there were actually two payments from Riddle to Lattimore, who got a total of $12,500 through his "ongoing corrupt relationship" with Riddle and Waters. The 18-month sentence was in line with what prosecutors asked for but below sentencing guidelines of 24 to 30 months.

U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battani, who also imposed a $12,500 fine, told Lattimore he has already punished himself more than prison will.

"You've destroyed your own reputation; you've destroyed the trust the public had in you," Battani said.

The Rev. David L. Roberson, Lattimore's pastor at New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Southfield, led other supporters in praying with Lattimore outside the courtroom just prior to the sentencing.

"We're going to stand by him," Roberson said.

Battani said letters she received in support of Lattimore show he is a good man who led an exemplary life before he made a bad mistake.

Lattimore's Southfield attorney, Arlene Woods, asked that Lattimore be placed in a halfway house and be allowed to work. She noted the relocation of the pawn shop was going to be approved in any case and Lattimore's actions had little, if any, effect.

Battani said whether Lattimore's actions had any effect "does not diminish the nature of the crime."

She allowed Lattimore 90 days to put his affairs in order before reporting to prison.

Riddle, who is serving a state sentence for a domestic assault, has pleaded guilty to a felony charge related to the Southfield case and awaits federal sentencing.

Waters, who is running for state Senate, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor for receiving a pricey watch from Zeidman's that she failed to declare as income. She also awaits sentencing in August.