Reynolds found guilty in Macomb County bribery case
Port Huron – A jury in federal court has found former Clinton Township trustee Dean Reynolds guilty of 10 counts of bribery and four counts of bribery conspiracy.
The jurors deliberated for about an hour Thursday before convicting Reynolds on all of the charges filed against him. The panel heard closing arguments from attorneys for Reynolds and the government Thursday morning.
After the verdict was read, federal marshals led Reynolds out of the courthouse and loaded him into a van.
Reynolds could get more than 20 years in prison when he is sentenced Oct. 25. He rejected a plea agreement last month that called for him to plead guilty to two counts of bribery conspiracy and be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Over the past week in U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland’s courtroom, jurors heard government testimony, wiretaps and secretly made recordings between Reynolds, waste hauling contractors and FBI agents that reflect the exchange of thousands of dollars and free legal services in exchange for Reynolds’ political influence in obtaining lucrative township contracts for former trash company CEO Chuck Rizzo.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta told the jury in closing remarks Thursday that despite defense efforts to make the exchanges appear as “friendly loans,” they were nothing but “illegal bribes.”
“You have heard and seen the tapes,” Bullotta told the jury. “They alone should be enough to convict …”
Defense attorney Stephen Rabaut told jurors the government’s case against his client was full of reasonable doubt, and based on the testimony of “thieves” and Rizzo — a “master manipulator” — all attempting to obtain special consideration for their cooperation in the prosecution.
“They are thieves and you can’t believe what they are saying,” Rabaut told jurors.
“The defense doesn’t contest Dean Reynolds received some funds from Chuck Rizzo … he doesn’t contest he received free legal services for his divorce,” said Rabaut, adding those actions don’t constitute bribery or conspiracy.
Rabaut noted that some of the checks obtained by Reynolds, had “loan” written on them and said the advice he gave to some contractors was information “any of us could have received.” He said some of the alleged conspiracies concerned contractors who did the best work at the lowest bid price.
Bullotta countered that Reynolds told others the “loan” description was done as an effort to disguise the bribes, and that tape recordings have him discussing how much he had done to help business operators obtain contracts, including advance information.
“There were no loan agreements, no interest and no repayments,” said Bullotta.
He told jurors even if they accept the payments were loans, a loan is an item of value, and would still fit the definition of a bribe.
In the first day of the trial last week, assistant U.S. Attorney David Gardey referred to Reynolds, 51, as a greedy “shakedown artist” eager to exchange his office and votes on the township board to the highest bidder. He also is charged with helping to set up a bribe with another Macomb County official, Brett Harris, a New Haven trustee.
Rabaut, has portrayed his client as having personal and financial trouble and turning to friends, including Rizzo, his “big brother,” for personal loans in his time of need.
Reynolds is the first person to stand trial in a Macomb County corruption scandal that has led to federal charges against 20 contractors and public officials and produced 15 convictions, including Rizzo, towing operator Gasper Fiore and engineering contractor Paulin Modi.
Rizzo, Fiore and Modi entered guilty pleas. Many audio and video recordings presented to jurors came from Rizzo, who became an informant with the U.S. Attorney’s Office as part of a plea deal. Rizzo has been sentenced to five and a half years in prison and fined $250,000 for bribery and embezzlement charges.