Indicted Michigan lawmaker: Opioids 'diminished cognitive ability'

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
Rep. Larry Inman, R-Traverse City, discusses his recent indictment on bribery charges inside his Lansing office.

Lansing — Embattled state Rep. Larry Inman is in treatment for opioid abuse and might cite prescription pain medication addiction as a defense in a criminal case alleging he attempted to sell his vote on a controversial measure in the Michigan Legislature.

Attorney Chris Cooke this week filed a motion giving notice of Inman’s “intention to present expert testimony and related evidence of diminished cognitive ability bearing on the issue of whether or not (he) had the requisite mental state required for the charged offenses.”

Inman is facing federal charges for alleged extortion, bribery and making false claims to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about conversations with the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights that were documented in text messages obtained by authorities. 

The Traverse City-area Republican is accused of seeking political contributions from the union in exchange for a “no” vote on a 2018 initiative that repealed the state’s prevailing wage law for construction workers, which he ended up voting for instead.

Inman has pleaded not guilty to all charges and has resisted calls to resign.

Cooke said Friday the defense notice was a formality alerting U.S. Attorneys that he may use evidence of “diminished mental capacity” for Inman, who is currently receiving treatment through an out-patient program but is also considering in-patient rehab options.

“We’ve got him in treatment with some of the foremost physicians in the state of Michigan on prescription medication and opioid use,” Cooke said. “And we’re really sort of in the early stages of that evaluation.”

Inman first disclosed his opioid addiction earlier this month through Cooke, who said his client started using opioids after an ankle injury sustained while campaigning several years ago.

He later had two abdominal surgeries and suffered from a degenerative lower back issue that increased his dependence on the prescription pain medication.

A grand jury indicted Inman after reviewing a series of text messages he sent a union official and lobbyist that showed the third-term representative openly discussing potential political contributions for himself and other lawmakers.

"People will not go down for $5,000, not that we dont appreciate it," he wrote in one text, according to the indictment. “Get with all the trades by Monday. I would suggest doubling what you given on Tuesday, asap, we never had this discussion.”

How the opioid abuse will factor into the case may depend on how Inman’s ongoing evaluation plays out, Cooke said.

“But certainly, if you think about the strength of these oxycodone, and if you have a prescription that allows you to take four of those or five of those a day and believe that you’ve got pain problems that require a substantial amount more … I would presume that’s got an impact on how you function throughout the day.”

Inman’s attorney this week also filed a motion seeking to dismiss the case on jurisdictional grounds, arguing the federal government does not have the authority to prosecute the case.

Republican House Speaker Lee Chatfield of Levering and other top state representatives have called on Inman to resign. But the House backed off a potential vote on a related resolution after Inman disclosed he was seeking treatment for opioid abuse.

Cooke said Inman still does not have any plans to resign. But with the Legislature recessing for summer break, Inman is not expected to return to work any time soon.

“Right now, I think it’s more important that he focus on his physical health,” Cooke said. “It’s a pretty intensive program, so I think it’s best that he stay away from the Legislature until such time as the doctors give him approval to return.”