Staffers for U.S. Rep. Andy Levin vote to form first congressional office union

Leland corruption trial delayed again until March

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

A federal judge Friday delayed the January corruption trial of Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland until March.

The two-month delay approved by U.S. District Judge Judith Levy gives lawyers for Leland and campaign staffer Elisa Grubbs more time to review evidence that includes audio and video recordings made by cooperating individuals, and time to study reports of witness interviews and grand jury transcripts.

Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland, left, leaves Detroit federal court with attorney Steve Fishman after being released on bond in a public corruption case in 2018.

Leland was indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2018 on bribery charges and accused of agreeing to accept $15,000 and free car repairs from a businessman.

He was supposed to stand trial last year but the case has been delayed several times due to its complexity and additional charges against Grubbs. The new trial date is March 23.

Leland is the highest-ranking Detroit politician charged with a federal crime since former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was indicted nine years ago and sentenced to 28 years in federal prison.

The three-count indictment capped a tumultuous year for Leland, 37, who had lived under a cloud of suspicion since The Detroit News obtained sealed FBI wiretap affidavits that revealed he was the target of a federal bribery probe.

Recorded conversations played a prominent role in the indictment, which portrayed the Detroit Democrat as a greedy, expletive-spewing schemer who used his political power to stall votes on a businessman's real estate matter last year while demanding bribes.

“I held it up again,” Leland told the businessman, who The News has identified as Detroit auto shop owner Robert Carmack. “It stayed … right in committee brother.”

Defendant Robert Carmack sits in Judge Cynthia Miller's courtroom during his preliminary hearing at 36th District Court in Detroit, Michigan on May 24, 2019.

On May 16, 2017, Leland offered to help the businessman in exchange for $15,000 and free car repairs, the government claims.

“I should ask for thirty,” Leland said, according to the indictment, “but I’m nice to you.”

Grubbs is accused of delivering the bribe from Carmack.

Carmack is embroiled in a separate criminal case.

The Woodhaven businessman faces four felonies in state court in connection with the 2016 sale of a 10-acre parcel at 7751 Melville St. in southwest Detroit.

Authorities allege Carmack never completed a $250,000 purchase of the site but used draft documents from 2007 to fraudulently represent that he owned the land before selling it. He faces up to 14 years in prison if convicted.

Leland, meanwhile, faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted in the corruption case and a $250,000 fine for each bribery count and five years for bribery conspiracy.

Leland, who remains on City Council, has professed his innocence.

"I'm innocent and I'm looking forward to trial," Leland told reporters outside court last year.

Twitter: @robertsnellnews