Spivey lawyer cites feds' 'vindictiveness,' says ex-Detroit councilman took steps to cooperate

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Detroit — Former Detroit City Councilman André Spivey bought four sport jackets to be fitted with recording devices, and agreed to wear sunglasses with cameras and to use a cellphone carrier that doesn't require subpoenas, all in an attempt to cooperate with a federal corruption investigation, his attorney wrote in a Tuesday memo.

Lawyer Elliott Hall's five-page filing comes in response to Friday claims from federal prosecutors that Spivey misled a federal judge about whether he cooperated with the ongoing probe and accused him of leaking the identity of an FBI confidential source and trying to obstruct investigators.

The defense memo accuses the federal government of "vindictiveness" and counters Spivey had been ready and willing to aid federal authorities, but the government lost interest.

"In fact, defendant Spivey and his attorney met with the FBI five times over a four-month period and were scheduled to meet with the FBI on Nov. 18, 2020 to discuss next steps," Hall wrote. "However, the government canceled that meeting. The government did not contact defendant Spivey or his attorney for eight months."

More:Feds slam Spivey for lying, failing polygraph in Detroit corruption probe

Hall is seeking a probationary sentence for Spivey, who is set to be sentenced Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts. Federal prosecutors have asked the court to impose a 40-month prison term. 

The ex-councilman pleaded guilty in September to a federal bribery charge, admitting that 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.

"He (Spivey) has been sufficiently punished by the consequences of his guilty plea, professionally, financially and personally," Hall argues in the Tuesday filing. 

The government's Friday memo accuses Spivey and other city officials of obstructing federal agents and warning FBI targets that they were under investigation for crimes.

Hall wrote Tuesday that Spivey voted 30 times against the interests of a confidential informant as proof that the monies exchanged were payments. 

"The government offers not one example of defendant Spivey accepting money offered to persuade him to act (vote) in the Confidential Source's favor," Hall wrote. "Not one."

Hall's rebuttal attacks the government's Friday filing for its tone, and argues that its claims are misleading or irrelevant.

More:Feds slam Spivey for lying, failing polygraph in Detroit corruption probe

"The government's brief exhibits a vindictiveness that goes outside of professional guidelines of law enforcement to being a personal attack," Hall wrote.

Federal prosecutors have faulted Spivey for claiming the bribes were "loans" from friends. In one instance, Spivey asked the FBI source for $1,500 for a birthday trip to Las Vegas in early 2018, prosecutors said.

The feds have portrayed Spivey as a greedy hypocrite who received bribes on eight separate occasions from a towing industry official during a five-year period ending in 2020.

The government's sentencing memo also cited Spivey's Oct. 20, 2020, failed polygraph test "on the issue of whether he had accepted bribes from a particular Detroit business owner who had issues pending before the City Council."

Hall responds that "defendants rarely pass a government-operated polygraph test," and "it cannot be used as evidence in a criminal case" and the test should have no bearing on Spivey's sentencing determination. 

"Defendant Spivey did not admit he accepted a bribe and change his story — as the government misrepresents in its brief," Hall wrote.

Spivey's conviction last fall marked the second corruption-related vacancy on Detroit City Council last year. Councilman Gabe Leland quit in May after pleading guilty to a state misconduct charge.

More:Detroit Councilman André Spivey pleads guilty to bribery, expected to resign

Hall argues that a prison sentence for a person who has lost their position and has no opportunity to repeat the crime "makes no sense whatsoever."

"Incarcerating Mr. Spivey serves no purpose," Hall wrote. "This is not a career criminal and the public is not at risk of future criminal activity...The government knows Mr. Spivey does not need to be rehabilitated through incarceration. For whatever reason, the United States Attorneys have a personal desire to treat Mr. Spivey differently."