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Judge says feds can't retry former state Rep. Inman on charges of bribery, attempted extortion

State Rep. Larry Inman talking to reporters
Rick Pluta
Michigan Radio

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jonker ruledthis week that the government cannot retry former Republican state Representative Larry Inman on charges of attempted extortion and soliciting a bribe.

The northern Michigan legislator had been accusedof soliciting campaign contributions from union officials in 2018 in exchange for voting against repealing the state's prevailing wage law. Inman ultimately voted  along with the position of the Republican caucus in favor of the repeal.

In late 2019, a jury found Inman not guilty of lying to the FBI.  The judge declared a mistrial on the two corruption charges because the jury could not reach a decision on them. 

In his ruling Monday, Jonker said a retrial on the attempted extortion and bribery charges would amount to double jeapordy.

Jonker agreed with the defense that to give full effect to the jury's aquittal on the charge of lying to the FBI, the government was barred from retrying the other counts.

Jonker wrote that the jury's acquittal on the lying charge "eliminates a key factual predicate enabling a jury to consider whether Mr. Inman crossed the line from permitted First Amendment campaigning to illegal vote selling."

"Mr. Inman was more blatant and less subtle than other more polished legislators and lobbyists. But there was no evidence of under-the-table payments or solicitations; there was only the pursuit and payment of fully reportable campaign contributions like those made across-the board on high profile issues like this one," wrote Jonker. "Without the 'plus factor' of lying to the FBI, retrial here would inevitably risk chilling legitimate First Amendment solicitiation of campaign contributions."

Jonker said that prosecutors had even tied lying to the FBI to the other counts during closing argument. He quoted them as saying: "Ask yourselves: If he did nothing wrong, why is he lying to the FBI about it repeatedly?"

Jonker ordered the dismissal of the two counts involving attempted extortion and bribery.  The government could appeal the decision.

After Inman was charged, then House Speaker Lee Chatfield asked him to resign. Inman refused.

An effort to recall Inman failedin early 2020.

Virginia Gordan has been a part-time reporter at Michigan Radio since fall 2013. She has a general beat covering news topics from across the state.
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