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Mistrial declared in trial of State Rep. Larry Inman

Max Johnston
Interlochen Public Radio
Michigan State Rep. Larry Inman walks out of federal court Tuesday after a judge declared a mistrial.

A jury found State Rep. Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg) not guilty Tuesday on a criminal charge of lying to the F.B.I.

The jury couldn’t reach a verdict on two other counts of soliciting a bribe and attempted extortion so the judge declared a mistrial.

The lawmaker — for now — avoids what could have been as much as 20 years in prison on the extortion charge alone.

“Hopefully this is over, I can get back to my life,” Inman said after court adjourned Tuesday. “I’m really looking forward to getting back to the Legislature and serving the residents of the 104th district.”

The weeklong trial ended with over 12 hours of jury deliberation before they made their decision. A juror declined to comment after court let out, but the jury sent a late note on Tuesday to Federal Judge Robert Jonker that said they were divided on the first two charges against Inman, extortion and solicitation of a bribe, and confused on the difference between the two.

“There’s certainly lots of dispute,” on the charges against Inman, Jonker said. “It’s not a typical case.”

Prosecutors asked for the jury to come back for another day of deliberations, but Jonker ultimately decided to call the case, saying more deliberation wouldn’t break an apparent deadlock.

“They gave it everything they had and just couldn’t come to a decision,” Jonker said.

Inman audibly sighed when the verdict was read but prosecutors asked the judge to quickly set a new trial date, implying they plan to put him on trial again in the near future. They did not answer questions from reporters.

“I would ask the government to take a close look on whether or not they’re going to put Rep. Inman through some more of this nightmare,” Inman’s attorney Chris Cooke said. “Draw this to a close.”

Cooke also asked Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives Lee Chatfield to restore Inman’s staff and office access in Lansing, which was revoked after the lawmaker was indicted.

The trial

Inman was accused of trying to sell his vote on Michigan’s prevailing wage law to lobbyists last year. The prosecution presented text messages in court that they say show him trying to solicit a bribe.

The trial featured 19 witnesses that testified on everything from lobbying practices in the state capitol to their personal feelings of Inman.

Current and former lawmakers, including Chatfield, testified on the realities of getting legislation passed in Lansing.

Chatfield said he tells lawmakers to consider three C’s when they vote on an issue: constituents, caucus and conscience.

“It’s a commonly known rule that you don’t link legislation to finances,” Chatfield added.

In his closing statement, Prosecuting Attorney Chris O’Connor said Inman considered a different three C’s when he voted on prevailing wage.

“Cash and campaign contributions,” O’Connor said.

Seven witnesses called by the defense included Inman’s aides and employees that largely testified he was an honorable person that they never saw broke the law, even if he was prone to exaggeration and paranoia.

“Larry had a reputation for being a little wacky and unreliable,” Dan Pero, retired chief of staff to former Michigan House Speaker Tom Leonard said.

Several witnesses testified that they never saw Inman ask for a bribe in person, and that they saw no clear evidence of a "quid pro quo" — or a "this for that" — bribery attempt.

Inman himself took the stand to recount a litany of health problems and stresses he was under at the time of the vote that he says clouded his judgement.

Inman insists text messages shown in court by prosecutors were misinterpreted, but most of his testimony was on his abuse of painkillers and alcohol. He said he was taking high dosages of painkillers around the time of the prevailing wage vote, and doesn’t even remember sending the texts shown in court.


Credit U.S. Department of Justice
A text Inman sent to an unidentified lobbyist.

“That doesn’t even look like me,” Inman said looking at one text.

Inman added that political pressure from other lawmakers factored into his vote, not any promise of cash to his campaign.

Evidence shown in court included a recorded phone call between the lawmaker and a union rep, text messages extracted from his phone, Inman’s medical records and medication he says he hoarded in an orange Nike shoebox.

Inman, who is in his third and final term in the state house, narrowly won a re-election campaign last November by 300 votes.

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.