Inman testifies on drug use, shows shoebox full of pills during 4th day of criminal trial

Dec 6, 2019

Rep. Larry Inman, left, stands with his attorney, Chris Cooke, outside federal court.
Credit Max Johnston / Interlochen Public Radio

Five witnesses testified during the fourth day of the trial of state Rep. Larry Inman, who was in federal court this week on charges of extortion, soliciting a bribe and lying to the F.B.I. He has plead not guilty to all charges.

Inman, (R-Williamsburg) himself took the stand Friday, a gametime decision by his attorney that seemed to suprise most of the people in attendance. 

Inman takes the stand

This was the first time Inman spoke at length about what prosecutors say was an attempt to solicit a bribe from a trade union last year.

As part of his diminished capacity defense, Inman's testimony began with the lawmaker recounting an ankle injury he sustained in 2014. This was one of several injuries and ailments that apparently plagued him over the course of the next four years.

Inman testified that he began taking prescription painkillers. He said his dosage increased as he got several surgeries to treat injuries to his back and abdomen.

"You get up, you take four or five (pills), in the afternoon I'd take 10," Inman said. "At night ... I ingested more of them and drank alcohol."

Inman said his pain was so severe that at times his legislative aides would drive him to and from the capitol building in Lansing, where the Sergeant at Arms had to help him walk around the building. 

"(I had) difficulty sleeping ... I wasn't listening, I wasn't comprehending," Inman said.

At one point, Inman's attorney Chris Cooke brought out an orange Nike shoebox and presented it to the court. When he opened it, the box contained dozens of half-empty prescription pill bottles. Inman said for years until the trial started he stashed extra medication in the box for when he thought he may need it. Inman said he was hoarding medication, that he was ashamed and embarrassed it was shown in court.

"When you're dependant on medication to get through the day, you don't think about 'was it right or wrong?'" Inman said.

As far as the vote on Michigan's prevailing wage law, Inman said he voted based on feedback from his district and pressure from other republican lawmakers.

"It was tearing me apart," Inman said.

Inman insists he never tried to solicit a bribe from lobbyists. Although he didn't recall sending any texts to lobbyists, Inman never said he didn't send them.

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

"Good god, this doesn't even sound like me," Inman said about one text, insisting they were misinterpreted.

By the time the F.B.I. began investigating Inman over his vote on prevailing wage, Inman said he cooperated with investigators as he "had nothing to hide."

"I'm an innocent person, I did not do these things," Inman said.

In brief comments to reporters after court adjourned, Inman said he was glad to tell the jury his side of the story.

"I was an addict and a borderline alcoholic and it affected my brain and it affected my ability to make good judgement calls and a lot of memory problems," Inman said.

Prosecutor grills Inman

U.S. Prosecuting Attorney Chris O'Connor didn't hold back when he cross-examined Inman. He said Inman's drug abuse is a story that Inman and his attorney came up with to avoid any punishment for his crimes.

O'Connor cited a patient intake form that Inman filled out when he got treatment at Hope Network Center for Recovery in Grand Rapids after he was indicted. Under the "reason for visit" section, Inman apparently put "legal reasons," according to evidence shown in court.

O'Connor also said in patient visit forms with Inman's doctor the lawmaker reported only taking a few pills each day, not the dozen or so that he testified to.

Inman was defensive and occasionally frustrated with these questions. Several times he asked to elaborate on his answers, which O'Conner and the judge denied. Inman at one point accused O'Connor of "rambling."

Other witnesses

Several of Inman's employees and legislative aides also testified on his state of mind and behavior. Inman's former campaign manager Ashley Ackerman said his drug use made her boss more erratic.

"He would go AWOL and not show up to things," Ackerman said. "At one point he told me he was taking 18 (pills) a day."

"The combination of the pain and the drugs was just messing with his head," former Legislative Aide Brad McGuire recalled.

All witnesses called by Inman's attorney said they never saw Inman behave unethically or illegally, and generally praised his work ethic.

The defense's case is expected to wrap up Monday, followed by closing statements and jury instruction and deliberation.