Ex-state Rep. Inman can faces bribery, extortion charges again, court rules

Hayley Harding
The Detroit News

Former Michigan state Rep. Larry Inman can face a new trial after the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reversed a lower court's decision to dismiss bribery and extortion charges.

U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker ruled in 2021 that Inman's constitutional rights to speech would be violated and to retry him could be barred by the double jeopardy clause of the Constitution if he faced another trial on charges of soliciting a bribe and attempted extortion.

Rep. Larry Inman, left, and his attorney, Chris Cooke, answer questions on Dec. 4, 2019, after the second day of Inman's trial in Grand Rapids.

The charges were dismissed after Inman, a Republican from Williamsburg in Grand Traverse County, was acquitted of lying to the FBI. A jury was unable to reach unanimous verdicts on the dismissed charges.

For the acquittal not to run afoul of double jeopardy, prosecutors "must be barred from retrying the other counts," Jonker said in 2021.

In a decision filed Thursday, Sixth Circuit Judge John K. Bush said the lower court erred when dismissing the two charges.

"At retrial, a jury must ... decide whether Inman actually extorted or attempted to solicit such an agreement — a question not answered by the first jury’s acquittal" on charges of lying to the FBI, Bush said. "The jury’s acquittal of Inman on making a false statement to the FBI does not preclude retrial on the two remaining counts."

The court remanded the case "for proceedings consistent with this ruling." 

The ruling means Inman can face trial for allegedly trying to get union lobbyists to buy his 2018 vote on repealing the state's prevailing wage law, which sets pay standards for construction projects funded by the state.

The maximum penalty for the extortion charge is 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. The bribery charge is a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, according to court documents.

Prosecutors focused on text messages Inman allegedly sent to lobbyists for the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights soliciting $30,000 for campaigns, The Detroit News reported.

During his trial, Inman argued that "he engaged only in lawful campaign activities, albeit clumsily," Bush said. After the trial, Inman maintained his innocence.

An attorney for Inman could not immediately be reached Sunday for comment. A call to the Department of Justice was not immediately returned.

Inman said after Jonker's decision in 2021 that he was relieved, praising the judge for protecting his constitutional rights and the integrity of the jury system. 

"I am just so elated and happy that the judge has decided to dismiss the two charges," Inman said then. "I don't have a lot of faith in the federal justice system other than the judge and the jury."

House Republicans removed him from the House GOP caucus and from his committee assignments after he was charged. He was asked to resign but refused, and a recall attempt against him failed after the state threw out thousands of signatures after petitions were missing a key word.

hharding@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Hayley__Harding