Ex-Detroit City Councilman Andre Spivey, convicted of bribery, was under financial stress when he took money from an FBI informant he saw as a trusted friend, not someone doing business with the city, his lawyer wrote Tuesday in a court filing.
The pre-sentencing memorandum by attorney Elliott S. Hall asks the judge to sentence Spivey to probation on Jan. 19, saying imprisonment would impose an undue hardship on his wife and two children.
Spivey, 47, pleaded guilty in September to accepting $35,900 in bribes, most of which came from the businessman seeking political favors for towing contracts, federal authorities alleged. The businessman was working undercover for the FBI.
Federal prosecutors accuse Spivey of greed and betraying Detroit's citizens, and recommend a prison sentence of three years and four months.
The 19-page defense document, filed Tuesday, explains that Spivey was a pastor for 14 years at St. Paul A.M.E. Church in Detroit before he stepped down in 2018 to attend law school at Wayne State University while remaining on council.
In 2008, he met the businessman, who attended campaign events and contributed money for his election, the filing said. Spivey was first elected to council in 2009.
There were times when the businessman sought counsel from him, the filing says.
"As the years passed Mr. Spivey innocently, and in hindsight, believed his relationship with [the businessman] was as friends and outside city business. As expenses mounted and as his income decreased when he resigned as pastor from St. Paul A.M.E. in 2018, Mr. Spivey became entrenched in a cycle of financial distress.
"His lack of discernment between what he thought was a confidant/acquaintance versus a conflicted individual doing business with the city has led to this day before a federal court judge in a criminal case. He made innocent, but poor choices that he now understands crossed legal boundaries."
Spivey first asked for a $1,000 loan in July 2016 from the businessman to cover taxes. Later that year, the defense attorney's filing notes, Spivey voted with colleagues to award a towing contract to a competitor.
In 2017, the FBI approached the businessman, who shared text messages from Spivey from 2016 when he asked for money in exchange for raising the dollar amount on towing contracts with the city, according to a government sentencing memo filed in court last week.
In 2018, the businessman began working undercover with the FBI, helping record meetings where money was given to Spivey or an aide, who acted as the bagman for the councilman.
The first recorded bribe in 2018 involved Spivey demanding $2,000 for a trip to Las Vegas, the government memo alleged. In exchange, Spivey agreed to help the businessman get a towing contract with the city.
Subsequently, Spivey was recorded taking seven more bribes, including one from an undercover FBI agent, the memo states.
As part of scheme, Spivey used a staff member to collect more than $20,000 in bribes on his behalf.
Additionally, the feds wrote that Spivey introduced the businessman to two other councilmembers. "Spivey’s open willingness to further corrupt other elected officials of the City of Detroit demonstrates and emphasizes the seriousness of Spivey’s criminal conduct," the government memo states.
The court filing for Spivey insists he never delivered a vote for the businessman.
"Mr. Spivey acknowledges the acceptance of the loans and other payments were illegal gratuities even though his actions did not directly compromise the integrity of the legislative deliberative process."
Spivey stepped down from council last September after pleading guilty.