Detroit corruption figure gets maximum 5-year term

AP News
Posted: Nov 13, 2009 4:42 PM

A judge ordered the maximum five-year prison sentence Friday for a key figure in a corrupt city sludge-hauling deal and likened the FBI's ongoing investigation to a hero in Greek mythology who clears manure from a king's stables in one day.

Rayford Jackson admitted arranging more than $6,000 in bribes for Monica Conyers to win support for a sludge-hauling contract in 2007 when she served on the Detroit City Council.

U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn told Jackson he has shown no remorse. But he offered a carrot to the businessman: cooperate with the FBI and the sentence could be revisited in a year.

Jackson was a consultant for Synagro Technologies, a Houston-based company that won a $47 million-a-year contract to handle Detroit waste. His main contact was Synagro's Michigan representative, Jim Rosendall, who has admitted giving gifts to city officials.

Rosendall cooperated with the FBI, pleaded guilty in January and will be sentenced Nov. 30. Conyers, the wife of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., admitted taking bribes and will be sentenced Jan. 15.

Jackson offered few words in court. His attorney, Richard Morgan Jr., asked for no more than two years in prison.

"He worked for Synagro. I call it lobbying. The government calls it bribery," Morgan said.

After ordering the five-year sentence, the judge praised federal investigators and drew a parallel to the fifth labor of Hercules, who in Greek mythology cleaned manure from the stables of King Augeas who owned more cattle than anyone in Greece.

"The judge has spoken and we'll live with the consequences. ... I never expected a sentence that severe," Morgan told reporters.

Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Michael Bullotta said Jackson paid bribes because he was in line to get thousands of dollars over a long period if Synagro won the deal.

"Now is the time for justice for the citizens of Detroit," Bullotta told the judge.

Cohn said the Synagro contract, which called for building a new waste incinerator in a heavily polluted end of town, was a "good deal" for Detroit and should have been approved by the council without bribes.

Morgan doubts Jackson will cooperate with the FBI's ongoing probe of Detroit corruption. The city's contract with Synagro was rescinded this year.