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Leland trial delayed again amid talks, star witness woes

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — The corruption trial of Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland was delayed Tuesday for a sixth time as the embattled politician and prosecutors discuss a potential resolution of the bribery case against him.

U.S. District Judge Judith Levy delayed the March trial until May due to scheduling issues involving witnesses and evidence gathered by the government during a years-long investigation involving Leland and campaign staffer Elisa Grubbs. 

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.

"In addition, the parties have discussed a resolution of the matter, and need additional time to determine whether a resolution is possible," lawyers involved in the case wrote in a court filing Tuesday.

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

Federal agents and the U.S. Attorney's Office have targeted public corruption during a more than decade-long crackdown in Metro Detroit that has led to charges against more than 109 politicians, bureaucrats, police officers and union officials.

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 Detroit businessman Robert Carmack.

The case has lingered, however, amid a series of personal problems involving Carmack, the government's star witness.

Robert Carmack after his October arrest for suspicion of drunken driving.

Carmack is awaiting two trials in state court; one involving allegations of drunken driving and one involving four felony charges stemming from a land deal in Detroit. In that case, authorities contend he never completed a $250,000 purchase of a 10-acre parcel at 7751 Melville in southwest Detroit but used draft documents to fraudulently represent that he owned the land before selling it in 2016.  

Carmack also has been been embroiled in a feud with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. Last year, he flew banners from a plane over downtown Detroit with messages targeting Duggan.

A banner created by Robert Carmack, businessman and antagonist of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, circles Comerica Park Thursday morning.

One banner read, "Kilpatrick in jail 28 years 4 corruption — Put Duggan 4 for the same." Another banner read: "Duggan spent $1.5 million of "city tax $$ on his mistress & sex." Carmack earlier had hired a plane to fly over downtown with similar banners during the Tigers' home opener.

 In November 2018, the auto shop owner aired footage of the mayor's comings and goings on a billboard truck outside City Hall.

Carmack, at the time, said he'd hired a private investigator to trail Duggan over a series of months and has questioned whether Duggan resided in the city. 

The footage showed the mayor visiting a condominium in Novi and separately showed a woman arriving there on other occasions.

rsnell@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @robertsnellnews