Macomb pol rejects plea deal in bribery case

Robert Snell
The Detroit News
Dean Reynolds

Detroit — Former Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds rejected a plea deal that would send him to federal prison for 10 years and will stand trial next month for his role in a widespread corruption case.

Reynolds spurned an agreement that would have involved pleading guilty to two counts of bribery conspiracy and will stand trial on charges that could send him to prison for more than 24 years, according to a federal court filing Wednesday.

A 24-year public corruption sentence would be one of the longest in U.S. history, trailing the 28-year sentence being served by former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick's corrupt tenure lasted longer and involved more money than allegations outlined in the Reynolds indictment.

Reynolds, 51, will be the first person to stand trial in a Macomb County corruption scandal that has led to charges against 20 contractors and public officials, and 15 convictions. A trial is scheduled for June 13 in front of U.S. District Judge Robert Cleland.

Reynolds is facing 14 charges: 10 counts of bribery and four counts of bribery conspiracy.

He is accused of pocketing bribes and accepting cash in exchange for approving municipal contracts with trash hauler Rizzo Environmental Services and a towing company.

Reynolds and Detroit towing titan Gasper Fiore were charged with multiple counts of bribery-related offenses in connection with a towing contract. In early 2016, Fiore allegedly gave Reynolds bribes totaling $7,000, prosecutors allege.

The bribes were funneled through former Rizzo trash company CEO Chuck Rizzo, according to the government.

Chuck Rizzo

Fiore and Rizzo have pleaded guilty for their roles in the scandal.

Reynolds, meanwhile, rejected the plea deal May 22 and suffered a setback days later.

On May 25, Cleland rejected a defense motion to suppress evidence from wiretaps issued in summer and fall 2015. 

Cleland determined that the wiretaps were properly approved by then-Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen.

The FBI wiretap requests outlined how traditional investigative techniques, including undercover agents, search warrants and physical surveillance, had failed to advance the investigation or were unlikely to succeed, Cleland wrote in a court filing.

"While each technique was accompanied by an explanation of its insufficiency, a common theme pervaded: the secretive nature of the bribery scheme, the inability of witnesses outside the scheme to divulge its details, and the real potential that more traditional investigative techniques would expose the pending criminal investigation and undermine the ability to conduct any further work," Cleland wrote.

The wiretap affidavits remain sealed but one, at least, relied on information from Reynolds' wife at the time, according to FBI Special Agent Joseph Jensen.

"Here, the affidavit simply failed to contain any evidence, other (than) conclusory evidence that would apply to virtually all public corruption investigations," defense lawyer Stephen Rabaut wrote in a court filing.

Reynolds allegedly conspired to commit bribery with former New Haven trustee Brett Harris, according to the indictment.

Brett Harris

Reynolds unwittingly introduced Harris to an undercover federal agent, telling the agent Harris was a politician willing to accept bribes, prosecutors allege.

The agent gave Harris $9,000 in cash bribes to help secure a garbage contract in New Haven, according to the indictment. Harris struck a plea deal and is awaiting sentencing.

Reynolds also pocketed $16,000 in bribes between 2009 and 2013 from engineering contractor Paulin Modi to secure an engineering contract for Modi in Clinton Township, prosecutors allege.

Modi also pleaded guilty and is awaiting a possible prison sentence.

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