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Federal prosecutors plan second trial for State Rep. Inman

Rick Pluta

Federal prosecutors say they will pursue a retrial in the case of a state legislator accused of soliciting a bribe and attempted extortion.

State Rep. Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg) allegedly tried to get campaign contributions in exchange for changing his vote on legislation to repeal the state’s “prevailing wage” law.

A jury couldn’t reach a verdict on the bribery and extortion charges in December. The jury found Inman not guilty on a third charge of lying to an FBI agent.

At a hearing in Grand Rapids on Thursday, the federal judge in the case said the split verdict creates a unique legal issue for the potential retrial.

Because Inman was found not guilty on one of the charges, Judge Robert Jonker said he worried a retrial involving some of the same evidence from the first trial could present a “double jeopardy” problem. The U.S. Constitution prohibits a person from being tried for the same crime twice, if the person has already been found not guilty. Separating the charges in the case might prove difficult, Jonker said.

Prosecutors say they don’t think it’ll be a problem.

“There’s no overlap here,” said Christopher O’Conner, an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan. “The government is entitled to a retrial.”

Inman’s attorney, Christopher Cooke, disagreed. Cooke argued the language describing the alleged crime in all three charges was similar.

Cooke also questioned why federal prosecutors would continue to spend time pursuing the case.

“I think there’s a lot better things we could be doing with our time,” Cooke said. “But that’s not my call.”

Prosecutors originally charged Inman based on text messages he sent, suggesting that representatives from trade unions “max out” their contributions to him and other legislators in order to stop the repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law.

“People will not go down for $5,000, not that we don’t appreciate it,” Inman wrote, according to transcripts of the texts presented by prosecutors.

“[W]e never had this discussion,” Inman added.

Inman continues to serve in the state Legislature, representing a district in northern Michigan.

Judge Jonker says if a retrial moves forward, he will try to schedule it for this summer while the legislature is on recess.

Earlier this month, a petition to recall Inman was derailed after the Secretary of State announced the group had not collected enough eligible signatures.

Dustin Dwyer is a reporter for a new project at Michigan Radio that will look at improving economic opportunities for low-income children. Previously, he worked as an online journalist for Changing Gears, as a freelance reporter and as Michigan Radio's West Michigan Reporter. Before he joined Michigan Radio, Dustin interned at NPR's Talk of the Nation, wrote freelance stories for The Jackson Citizen-Patriot and completed a Reporting & Writing Fellowship at the Poynter Institute.