Prosecutor: Misconduct charge against Detroit council's Gabe Leland tied to campaign donation

The Monroe County Prosecutor's Office on Wednesday amended felony charges against Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland to clarify the accusations are tied to a $7,500 campaign contribution. 

The revised charging document spells out the alleged conduct that prompted last week's filing of misconduct in office charges against Leland. 

Former Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland resigned last spring after pleading guilty to a state count of misconduct in office. Leland admitted he accepted $7,500 in cash from a Detroit businessman toward his reelection bid in exchange for his vote on a land deal and free car repairs.

"I am happy to see that the complaint has been amended to reflect what actually occurred," Leland attorney Steve Fishman said Wednesday. 

Leland was charged Friday with misconduct in office by Monroe County Prosecutor Michael Roehrig, who was assigned the case after Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy cited a conflict of interest. 

The Wednesday charging document alleges Leland "accepted a campaign contribution of $7,500 in cash."

The payments are alleged to have occurred between Jan. 1, 2017, and Jan. 31, 2018. The maximum penalty for the felony offense is five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. 

Leland's arraignment has not yet been scheduled in Wayne County. The 37-year-old council member could not be immediately reached Wednesday for comment, but he did attend Tuesday's City Council session. 

The original charging document from Monroe County said Leland "accepted payments of money to influence his vote on certain city matters over the course of his employment as a city councilman."

Monroe County Prosecutor Michael Roehrig said the change to the complaint does not negate the facts detailed in the first document, which indicated Leland had bartered his City Council vote for money. But the amended complaint, Roehrig said, better reflects “the nature of the alleged criminal misconduct.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said during an unrelated Wednesday news conference that Leland or any other public official under suspicion should be treated as innocent until proven guilty.

"If and when any individual is convicted they should be out immediately," said Duggan, a former Wayne County prosecutor. "Until then, they are entitled to the justice system."

Council member Scott Benson added that he's "not going to speculate" on Leland's future.

"Mr. Leland is my colleague. I will continue to support him. He continues to support the residents of Detroit and his constituents," Benson said.  

The state charge comes as Leland prepares for a federal trial on three counts of bribery on allegations that he demanded $15,000 and free car repairs from businessman Robert Carmack to help him in his fight against city leadership.

Leland and Carmack discussed land the businessman believed he owned that was going to be sold by the city. Leland offered to vote and help Carmack delay or prevent the sale in exchange for the money as well as free car repairs, authorities have alleged.

The next month, Leland twice cast the sole vote against selling the property.

Two months later, in August 2017, Leland enlisted a campaign staffer to pick up and deliver him $7,500. Four days later, he won the Aug. 8 primary. 

Leland met Carmack at the Caucus Club Detroit restaurant days later, acknowledging receipt of the $7,500 but said Carmack never paid the balance of the $15,000 bribe, according to Leland's federal indictment.

In April, Leland’s federal trial was postponed from May to Aug. 17.

The bribery charges carry penalties up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

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

The indictment came as the councilman lived under a cloud of suspicion since The Detroit News obtained sealed FBI wiretap affidavits in 2017 that revealed he was the target of the federal bribery probe.