Grand jury indicts Detroit councilman on bribery charges
DETROIT (AP) — A federal grand jury on Thursday indicted a Detroit city councilman on corruption charges tied to $15,000 in bribes and free auto body work solicited and accepted from a business owner in return for help on a property issue.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit said Gabe Leland faces one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and two counts of bribery.
The indictment accuses Leland of agreeing to help delay or prevent the city’s sale of property the business owner believed was his.
Campaign worker Elisa Grubbs was charged Wednesday with bribery conspiracy. She is accused of accepting cash Aug. 4, 2017 from a business owner. Leland is charged with taking a $7,500 cash bribe on that date, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. A statement on the indictment did not say if Grubbs worked for Leland’s campaign.
“The public demands and is entitled to honest public servants,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Timothy Slater said Thursday in a statement. “Today’s indictment of Detroit City Council Member Gabriel Leland underscores the fact that individuals who hold a position of public trust — and who betray that trust — will be held accountable. The FBI is committed to aggressively investigating allegations of public corruption.”
Leland was elected in 2013, just a few weeks after former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was sent to prison for 28 years for city hall corruption. Leland was re-elected in 2017.
If convicted, Leland faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each bribery count and up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for conspiracy.
The Associated Press left messages Thursday seeking comment from Leland and his attorney.
A bar owner sued Leland in July in federal court, accusing him of extorting more than $5,000 in alcohol and food from the now-closed business.
Centre Park Bar co-owner Kenneth Bridgewater said in the suit that during a 2016 discussion about leasing and police harassment issues Leland demanded free alcohol and food for himself and a friend.
Leland told reporters that he “probably” had food and a drink at the bar while discussing city business, but said the lawsuit was a “witch hunt” and that the claims were “allegations.”
Leland is the latest Detroit councilmember facing criminal charges. In 2016, a former council president, Charles Pugh, was sentenced to at least 5½ years in prison for having sex with teenager. Investigators said the boy was younger than 16 when the sex acts occurred in 2003 and 2004, when Pugh worked for a Detroit-area television station.
Former City Council President Monica Conyers pleaded guilty in 2009 to conspiracy to commit bribery. She admitted to taking bribes in exchange for her vote on a $47 million sludge hauling contract. She entered prison in 2010 and was released to a Detroit halfway house in January 2012.