After ex-Detroit Councilman Andre Spivey expressed remorse and shame for taking bribes, a federal judge Wednesday morning sentenced him to two years in prison.
"I think the remorse is genuine, the feelings of embarrassment are genuine, the losses are genuine," said U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts.
But Roberts said she couldn't let him slide for the crimes. "This wasn't a mild case of corruption, this wasn't a single lapse in judgment but a pattern of corruption."
Spivey, 47, pleaded guilty in September to accepting $35,900 in bribes, most of which came from a businessman seeking political favors for towing contracts, federal authorities alleged. The businessman was working undercover for the FBI.
The government had asked for a 40-month sentence.
Spivey's attorney Elliott Hall had pushed for probation, saying his client had already paid a great price for his misdeeds: He had to resign, he might not be able to be pastor in the AME church, he can't run again for state or local office and he faces shame in the community.
"It borders on cruelty that he should be incarcerated," adding: "This crime is not emblematic of Mr. Spivey."
Assistant U.S. Attorney David A. Gardey said while he was a good husband, father and pastor, Spivey had betrayed the citizens of Detroit.
"Mr. Spivey did tremendous damage to the public belief in government and in their public officials. And in the past several years the city of Detroit has taken great strides back from bankruptcy, back from mismanagement, back from the corruption of the Kilpatrick administration that ended in 2008.
"And now because of Mr. Spivey, who took office in 2009, Detroiters have a sick, disgusted feeling, that instead of a vibrant and growing city on the rise, corruption is somehow endemic in the city."
A contrite Spivey, sitting next to his attorney Hall, spoke with a mask on, saying he was embarrassed and ashamed by his behavior.
"I broke the law and i was wrong," Spivey said, but added: “I still believe in reclamation and second chances and when I look in the mirror, I still believe in myself. I ask this court to believe in me, too.”
The U.S. Attorney's Office in a filing last week admonished the councilman for claiming he cooperated with federal authorities after being confronted about the bribes. The U.S. Attorney's Office stated that Spivey tried to sabatoge the ongoing probe into city hall corruption by actions that included warning his a staff member of the investigation.
Hall said that Spivey was willing to cooperate and did meet with federal authorities on multiple occasions. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Gardey said that because Spivey lied to investigators they decided not to take advantage of his cooperation.
Hall had argued that Spivey should get probation, just like ex-Councilman Gabe Leland. Some in the community have said a disparity in sentencing would suggest a racial bias in the system. But in a court filing last Friday, prosecutors stated that the Leland case was far more problematic because of a questionable key witness, and therefore, they allowed Leland to plead to a lesser charge in state court.
The judge said a number of Spivey supporters in letters to the court raised the issue of the Leland case. And while she said it was something to consider, there were a number of others convicted of bribery, like ex-Detroit Councilwoman Monica Conyers, who went to prison.
After sentencing, Detroit U.S. Attorney Dawn N. Ison issued a statement:
“Public corruption undermines the faith of the people in their leaders. Public officials who take bribes will be punished, and I am determined to take every action to root out corruption within the City of Detroit or anywhere else in this district where we find it.”
Federal authorities have said in court papers that Spivey introduced the businessman who was bribing him to two other council members. They were not named, but weeks before Spivey pleaded guilty, FBI agents raided the homes and offices of Councilmembers Janeé Ayers and Scott Benson and their top staffers.
Ayers lost her bid for re-election in November, and Benson, who ran unopposed, won. To date, neither have been charged with wrongdoing.