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Rep. Conyers' Wife Pleads Guilty to Bribery Charge

By Ben Pershing
The wife of House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers (D-Mich.) pleaded guilty to a federal bribery charge today and now faces a likely jail sentence after being implicated in an investigation of corruption on the Detroit City Council.

Monica Conyers, the city council's president pro tem, pleaded to a single count of conspiracy to commit bribery, admitting that she took thousands of dollars in cash payments in exchange for her vote in favor of a $1.2 billion city sludge-hauling contract for Houston-based Synagro Technologies, Inc. A former official with the company and another Detroit businessman have already pleaded guilty in connection with the scandal.

Monica Conyers is currently free on personal bond, and it's not clear whether she will keep her position on the council until she is sentenced. According to the Detroit News, Conyers' attorney believes she faces 30-37 months of prison under federal sentencing guidelines. Federal prosecutors say she faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.

Conyers reportedly had also been under investigation for allegedly accepting $40,000 worth of jewelry from a pawn shop owner with business before the city council. Today's plea agreement did not reference those allegations, and prosecutors said their investigation is now closed.

John Conyers, meanwhile, declined to talk to reporters in the Capitol today, and his office provided this statement from a spokesperson: "This has been a trying time for the Conyers family, and with hope and prayer they will make it through this as a family. Public officials must expect to be held to the highest ethical and legal standards. With this in mind, Mr. Conyers wants to work towards helping his family and the city recover from this serious matter."

In his capacity as Judiciary chairman, John Conyers is the lead House official conducting oversight of the Justice Department and the FBI. A Judiciary panel spokesman would not entertain a question on whether Conyers recused or considered recusing himself from any matters under the committee's jurisdiction while the investigation of Monica Conyers was underway.

Terrence Berg, the U.S. attorney in charge of the investigation in Michigan, told the Detroit Free Press: "I also want to make it equally clear that the evidence offered no suggestion that U.S. Rep. John Conyers, Mrs. Conyers' husband, had any knowledge or role in Mrs. Conyers' illegal conduct, nor did the congressman attempt to influence this investigation in any way."

John Conyers isn't the first Michigan House member to have a relative face legal trouble. In September, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D), son of Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D), pleaded guilty to lying under oath and resigned from office after being accused of trying to cover up a sexual affair with a former aide.

By Ben Pershing  |  June 26, 2009; 3:30 PM ET
Categories:  Ethics and Rules , House  
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