Evidence lacking, lawyer says in Lovelock bribery case

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Detroit — An attorney for the embattled former Chesterfield Township supervisor said the federal government has not presented enough evidence to support the bribery and corruption charges brought against his client last month.

Jerome Sabbota said Thursday he wanted to remind the public that Michael Lovelock is still innocent until the accusations are proven in court.

“I haven’t seen the merit behind those allegations,” the Royal Oak attorney said after a hearing for Lovelock was held in federal court. “You have an investigation that we haven’t been privy to.”

Lovelock appeared in court, where he was arraigned on an indictment.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Elizabeth Stafford entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.

Lovelock was indicted on four counts of conspiracy and demanding bribes in exchange for corruptly influencing his decisions as a supervisor.

Authorities say that between 2010-16, Lovelock accepted a total of $30,000 from a company with a “significant contract” with the township. He was arrested and arraigned Nov. 17.

Lovelock was one of three local officials charged with taking bribes from the company, that has been identified as Rizzo Environmental Services.

Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds is charged with taking $50,000 to $70,000 in cash bribes from Rizzo in exchange for supporting the firm’s $3.5 million annual contract bid.

Macomb Township Trustee Clifford Freitas is accused of taking $7,500 from Rizzo. An indictment for Freitas has been delayed because he is negotiating a plea deal.

Rizzo’s founder, Chuck Rizzo Jr., resigned from the company in October amid the scandal.

Lovelock, who had been supervisor since 2008, was unseated in November when he lost re-election to Daniel J. Acciavatti.

Sabbota said it’s possible authorities made a mistake in arresting Lovelock.

“This is just an allegation,” he said.

Sabbota compared it to the wrongful charge of DeAngelo Davis in the killing of Wayne State University Officer Collin Rose. The charges against Davis were dismissed and he was released from jail Wednesday.

Kelli C. Hodges, special agent for the FBI, said in a court affidavit Lovelock had been accepting bribes from a principal of “Company A.”

The FBI wiretapped that person’s phone and he was ultimately confronted with the evidence. He confessed to the crime, agreed to cooperate with the investigation and is identified as Cooperating Human Source One in the affidavit.

In September 2015, FBI physical surveillance captured a meeting between Lovelock and the source in a parking lot in Troy.

During the meeting, the source handed Lovelock $2,500 in cash in exchange for getting “Company A” paid by Macomb County for flood cleanup work it did in Chesterfield, according to the affidavit.

Lovelock had previously sent a coded text message to the source requesting the money, according to the affidavit.

“I hope for lots of carrots maybe 60 bundles just kidding rabbits hungry,” the text said.

“Carrots” is code for money, according to the complaint.

nterry@detroitnews.com

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@NicquelTerry