Rep. Inman pleads not guilty, has no plans to resign

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
State Rep. Larry Inman arrives at federal court in Grand Rapids on May 28, 2019.

Grand Rapids — Michigan state Rep. Larry Inman on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to federal extortion and bribery charges and remains free on a $25,000 unsecured bond following arraignment.

The third-term Republican is accused of attempting to sell his vote on a controversial 2018 initiative that repealed the state’s prevailing wage law for construction workers. Inman has resisted calls to resign in the nearly two weeks since a federal grand jury handed down a three-count indictment, but it remains unclear when and if the embattled lawmaker will return to work.

“We’re talking about that,” Attorney Chris Cooke told reporters after Inman appeared for a brief arraignment and pretrial conference before Magistrate Judge Phillip J. Green in Grand Rapids federal court. “There’s no plans to resign right now.”

Inman, who lives in Williamsburg near Traverse City, declined to talk to reporters, apologizing as he deferred questions to his attorney.

The embattled representative was far more talkative in the immediate aftermath of the indictment, when he denied the allegations against him in a series of interviews with The Detroit News and other outlets that federal prosecutors now intend to present as evidence.

Inman won’t have to put up any money for his bond but could lose $25,000 if he misses any future court hearings in the case. Green ordered him to surrender his passport to the court and exchange his “enhanced” driver’s license for a standard version that will prevent him from leaving the country.

“That’s more than reasonable,” Inman told the judge when asked if he understood that he will be prohibited from international travel as a condition of the bond.

Dressed in a dark, pin-striped suit and sporting a fresh, close-shave haircut, Inman answered Green’s questions with a series of short but polite answers.

Federal prosecutors allege Inman extorted a union and solicited political contributions for himself and other lawmakers in exchange for a potential "no" vote on the prevailing wage repeal legislation, which he ended up voting for instead.

Michigan House Speaker Lee Chatfield, R-Levering, and other top GOP state representatives have called on Inman to resign, citing the potential distraction his case may cause even though he remains innocent until proven guilty.

Inman has proclaimed his innocence since the indictment, which documented a series of text messages he sent to to a representative and lobbyist for the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights.

The union opposed repealing the law, which guaranteed union wages and benefits for workers on government-funded construction projects.

“We only have 12, people to block it. You said all 12 will get $30,000 each to help there (sic) campaigns. That did not happen, we will get a ton of pressure on this vote," Inman said in one text, according to the indictment.

"I would suggest doubling what you given on Tuesday, asap, we never had this discussion," he wrote in another, according to the indictment.

Federal prosecutors last week indicated their evidence also includes a recorded phone call between Inman and a carpenters union representative, along with additional text messages in which he allegedly solicited contributions from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ahead of the prevailing wage vote. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris O’Connor told Green he had turned over to Inman’s attorney all relevant evidence, including data extracted from the lawmaker’s cell phone. He declined additional comment on the case.