Spare former Detroit Councilman Spivey prison, his lawyer argues

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Former Detroit City Councilman André Spivey asked a federal judge Tuesday to spare him from prison for receiving almost $36,000 in bribes during a years-long conspiracy.

The request for probation is at odds with a separate request from federal prosecutors who portrayed Spivey as a greedy hypocrite who deserves a 40-month sentence for receiving bribes on eight separate occasions from a towing industry official during a five-year period ending in 2020. The unnamed official, referred to in court filings as a "confidential source," or CS for short, was seeking favors and trying to buy the councilman's vote.

Spivey, 47, considered the source a friend and blamed his willingness to accept bribes on a series of financial problems that led to him seeking "loans" from friends and associates, according to his lawyer, Elliott Hall.

"He made innocent, but poor, choices that he now understands crossed legal boundaries," Hall wrote in a sentencing memorandum. "He takes full responsibility for his actions."

Detroit councilman Andre Spivey walks toward his vehicle after being arraigned at the Theodore Levin Federal Courthouse, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, in Detroit.  Spivey and a member of his staff are accused of accepting more than $35,000 in bribe payments to be "influenced and rewarded" for votes over several years.

Spivey, 47, is the highest-ranking person convicted in an ongoing crackdown on public corruption within city government and the police department involving municipal towing operations. Five people have been charged with crimes and more remain under investigation as part of a broader hunt for evidence of bribes, extorted contractors or illegal benefits funneled through nonprofits. 

That investigation includes former Councilwoman Janeé  Ayers and Councilman Scott Benson. Their homes and offices were raided by FBI agents in August as part of “Operation Northern Hook," which included searches at the homes of their chiefs of staff.

Spivey will be sentenced on Jan. 19, four months after pleading guilty to a federal bribery charge and admitting he and an unnamed aide received almost $36,000 in bribes. The Detroit News has identified the aide as his chief of staff, Keith Jones.

Spivey resigned after pleading guilty — politicians convicted of corruption-related crimes are prohibited from holding state or local office — and his conviction marked the second vacancy on the city's governing board last year since Councilman Gabe Leland quit in May after pleading guilty to a state misconduct charge.

Spivey did not compromise the integrity of the city’s legislative process, his lawyer wrote.

“He never took an official act to assist the CS or the CS’s business — in fact, except for one vote to unanimously approve the administration’s request to amend the CS’ business contract, all of Mr. Spivey’s votes were against the CS’ business interests,” Hall wrote.

Spivey’s lawyer included hundreds of letters from the disgraced politician’s supporters — including former Councilwoman Brenda Jones (who used City Council letterhead), Council President Pro Tem James Tate and Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree — and wrote that Spivey apologized to his church congregation. Spivey served as pastor of St. Paul AME Church until resigning in 2018.

“Most importantly, Mr. Spivey is not merely ‘sorry he got caught,’ he is sorry that he breached the trust of his position as a member of the City Council and dishonored his position as a member of the clergy,” Hall wrote.

“This conviction negated the good work he had done over the past 21 years both as a clergyperson and an elected official.”

The lawyer also noted that Spivey cooperated with the FBI, helping investigate and prosecute others.

A prison sentence would cause “extreme hardship” on Spivey’s family, his lawyer wrote.

Spivey serves on the ministerial staff at Oak Grove AME Church in Detroit.

“It is fair to state that the stigma of Mr. Spivey’s conviction will cause hardship to his family for many years to follow, even if he receives a sentence of probation,” Hall wrote.

Twitter: @robertsnellnews