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Rep. Larry Inman to go on trial this week: What you should know

Rick Pluta

State Rep. Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg) will go to federal trial Tuesday on charges of allegedly soliciting a bribe, extortion and lying to the F.B.I.

Inman faces up to 30 years in prison for allegedly trying to sell his vote on Michigan's prevailing wage law last year. He has plead not guilty to all charges.

The alleged extortion, soliciting a bribe and lying to the F.B.I.

Federal prosecutors indicted Inman on the charges last year. At the trial, they will present text messages sent from Inman that they say show him trying to sell his vote to the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights for campaign contributions.

Credit U.S. Department of Justice
On June 3, 2018, Rep. Inman sent this text to an unidentified lobbyist for the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights.

Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) will testify at the trial. Prosecutors say Chatfield can speak about Inman's need for cash in the middle of a tightly contested re-election race last year.

"Chatfield's testimony will help the jury determine whether Inman was getting pressure... or embellishing as part of an effort to extort money from the Carpenters' union," U.S. prosecutors wrote in a brief to the court.

Chatfield and his attorneys tried to argue that he shouldn't be compelled to testify. They said he couldn't get pulled from the State House, which is in session Tuesday, and his testimony may include things that fall within "state legislative privilege." A judge quashed that last week. Chatfield and his attorneys did not return calls for comment.

Inman's defense

Inman's legal team will argue that he couldn't have intentionally solicited a bribe because he was under the influence of pain medication. The argument, sometimes called a diminished capacity defense, is that Inman could not have knowingly committed a crime as he doesn't remember sending those text messages and some were misinterpreted. 

"You can't be accused of soliciting a bribe if you send out some text message you don't even remember," Inman's attorney Chris Cooke said.

This summer Cooke announced that Inman was seeking treatment for the long-term use of prescription pain medicaton. Several of Inman's doctors will testify on the affects those drugs had on his behavior.

Inman's political future

When the federal indictment on Inman was announced last Spring, he was quickly removed from his committee assignments, lost access to his office in the capitol and has faced bipartisan calls to resign. A group tried to get Inman removed from office, but their petition was knocked down by the State Bureau of Elections last week because of typos on the form. 

Despite missing several votes over the summer, Inman has been back at the capitol while the house was in session. His attorney Chris Cooke says that will continue.

"He's overcome a lot of hurdles to be on the floor and he intends on doing that during the course of the trial," Cooke said.

Headed to court

The trial starts at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3 at the U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids.

Max came to IPR in 2017 as an environmental intern. In 2018, he returned to the station as a reporter and quickly took on leadership roles as Interim News Director and eventually Assignment Editor. Before joining IPR, Max worked as a news director and reporter at Michigan State University's student radio station WDBM. In 2018, he reported on a Title IX dispute with MSU in his story "Prompt, Thorough and Impartial." His work has also been heard on Michigan Radio, WDBM and WKAR in East Lansing and NPR.