Federal Judge Says Former Rep. Larry Inman Cannot Be Retried; Case Dismissed

"That’s the way it should have turned out. Larry is an innocent man." - Inman Attorney Christopher Cooke

A former Michigan lawmaker will not be retried on charges of extortion and bribery. That’s the decision of a federal court judge, who is ruling in the case of former State Representative Larry Inman.

That ruling came down late Monday. Inman’s attorney Christopher Cooke says, “He was ecstatic, we’re both ecstatic. That’s the way it should have turned out way back when we started down this road.”

The Grand Traverse County lawmaker was indicted in 2019. Federal prosecutors argued he tried to sell his vote on the prevailing wage law. He sent text messages to a lobbyist asking for campaign contributions.

A jury acquitted him on a charge of lying to the FBI but couldn’t reach a verdict on charges of bribery and extortion.  In his written ruling, Chief United States District Judge Robert Jonker explains that “The government seeks to retry the extortion and bribery charges, as would normally be possible in the wake of a mistrial based on a hung jury.  The defense says, however, that cannot be done in this case without violating Double Jeopardy…”

Jonker says that the jury’s verdict means they also rejected the prosecution’s overall theory on the other charges. “The jury then acquitted on the lying charge.  By the government’s own logic, that must mean the jury believed Mr. Inman’s testimony.  And for that reason, retrial of the remaining counts must be barred.”

Inman’s attorney acknowledged there may be naysayers or critics who still feel Inman’s actions were unethical. “There’s always going to be critics, but this was an absolute vindication. The most difficult charge he faced in my estimation was the false statement to the FBI. That was the most difficult charge and I think the government felt that was their strongest suit.” He adds, “If the government can come prosecute you on a 20-year felony offense for 2 text messages and nothing more, that’s a scary piece of business in our world.”

The judge writes that Inman was “more blatant and less subtle” than other lawmakers, but that there was “no evidence of under the table payments or solicitations”… and that Inman pursued fully reportable campaign contributions. Cooke says, “What is the way of the world? What is our political system like? Our political system is based on campaign contributions … that’s the grease that drives the system.” He adds, “There has to be a bright line between what’s extortion and bribery, and what are campaign contributions in that context? That’s why Judge Jonker tried to draw with his opinion.”

The judge says the remaining two charges in the indictment are dismissed, and the case is closed. The U-S Attorney’s office has 30 days to appeal. In a statement, US Attorney Andrew Birge says:

“We are disappointed in the court’s ruling and disagree with it for all of the reasons we expressed in our briefing and argument to the court.  We are carefully reviewing the decision to determine our options. The principle my office has been seeking to enforce with the prosecution is grounded in United States Supreme Court precedent: it is a crime for a public official to solicit or demand something of value, even campaign contributions, in exchange for an official act.”

Cooke acknowledges it’s not over yet. “There’s a 30 day cloud. We’ve got to figure out what the government is going to do. And I hope we’ve seen the end of this now. The government took a shot at Larry. They brought all their resources to bear. There was a jury trial … and the jury’s made a decision. It should end there.”