Gabe Leland gets 2.5 years of probation on misconduct in office charge

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — Former Detroit City Council member Gabe Leland was sentenced to two and a half years of probation Monday after pleading guilty to a state misconduct in office charge.

Wayne County Circuit Judge Gregory Bill handed down the sentence after Leland  admitted he "crossed a line" after pleading guilty early last month to misconduct in office and resigning from the council.

Steve Fishman, attorney for Gabe Leland, speaks at the sentencing of the former Detroit City Council member over Zoom on Monday, June 7, 2021.

The 38-year-old Democrat was accused of agreeing to accept $15,000 in cash and free car repairs from a Detroit businessman in exchange for his vote on a controversial land deal. The allegations resulted in an indictment on federal bribery charges in addition to the felony misconduct in office charge, but the federal charge was dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

“The court has been convinced to go along with this fair disposition, and in light of your resignation from the Detroit City Council, you’re not in a position to breach the trust of the people,” Bill said during sentencing. “So I don’t see any need for a fine, that’s not part of the agreement anyway.”

Should Leland violate the terms of his 2.5 year probation period, he could face five years in prison.

Leland said while few people have the opportunity to serve in elected office, he had the honor to do so for 15 years.

“But I crossed the line,” Leland said during the Zoom court hearing, apologizing to his constituents, those who voted for him and his family.

“My dad did have the distinct pleasure to serve for 38 years, both in the state House and state Senate and the Wayne County Commission, and he certainly instilled that in me.”

Leland told the judge he intends to reinvent himself and “press the reset button.”

“In my career, I have my whole life ahead of me, but I do look forward to continue to help this great city in my future endeavors,” he said.

Bill said while the apology is significant, he reminded Leland he cannot represent the people and that "one year of probation would merely be a slap on the hand."

Under an agreement with the Monroe County Prosecutor's Office, Leland was to face no jail time and a separate federal indictment against him would be dismissed. Leland was indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2018 on bribery conspiracy and two counts of bribery stemming from the allegations.

The U.S. Department of Justice noted its intention to dismiss the indictment in a Feb. 14, 2020, letter to Wayne County prosecutors.

The Monroe County Prosecutor's Office charged Leland with misconduct in office in July after Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy cited a conflict of interest. 

Leland, who earned $89,546 a year for his role on the Detroit council, was indicted in 2018. Even so, he continued to take part in council sessions, community events and meetings for more than two years.

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. Kilpatrick was released in January after serving in prison for seven years when former President Donald Trump commuted his sentence. 

The last Detroit council member who pleaded to a crime was former council President Monica Conyers, who served more than two years in prison and about 20 months on probation. The wife of the late Congressman John Conyers, D-Detroit, pleaded guilty to accepting at least a $6,000 bribe for her deciding vote on the 2007 Synagro Technologies Inc. sludge contract.

Leland's resignation reduced the Detroit council to eight members. The panel agreed to leave Leland's seat open until Detroit voters cast their ballots in November. 

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

Leland in August 2017 enlisted a campaign staffer to pick up $7,500 in cash from Carmack and bring it to him, prosecutors said. Four days later, he won the Aug. 8 primary. 

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

Twitter: @SarahRahal_