Monica Conyers pleads guilty in Synagro scandal

Paul Egan / The Detroit News

Detroit -- Detroit City Council Pro Tem Monica Conyers pleaded guilty to a five-year felony today in connection with the city sludge hauling scandal today.

Conyers, 44, spoke softly in federal court as she admitted taking bribes in connection with $1.2 billion Synagro Technologies Inc. contract the Detroit City Council awarded in 2007.

Conyers changed her position from opposing to supporting the deal to cast the deciding vote.

Conyers could be facing about three years in prison under her plea agreement. Her attorney, Steve Fishman, believes federal sentencing guidelines of 30-37 months apply.

Federal prosecutors believe she would get the full five years under sentencing guidelines.

One of her longest friends, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Vonda Evans, entered the courtroom just before 10 a.m.
Federal prosecutors have been in plea talks in recent days with Conyers and her former aide, Sam Riddle.

According to the paperwork filed, Conyers plead guilty to a single count of conspiracy to commit bribery: "Beginning at a date unknown and continuing until in or about Dec. 2007 ... Monica N. Conyers did knowingly and voluntarily conspire and agree with an aide and others to corruptly solicit and demand for the benefit of herself and others, and agreed to accept, things of value from persons while an agent of the city of Detroit ... with the intent that Conyers would be influence and rewarded with connection with any business, transaction or series of transactions of a value of $5,000 or more with the city of Detroit. ...

"Defendant Conyers and her co-conspirators executed the conspiracy by agreeing Conyers and her aide would receive money and other things of value by creating the perception in the payors' minds that Conyers would be influenced in taking actions beneficial to the persons giving the things of value using her authority as a member of the Detroit City Council."

Two examples from the indictment:

• On Nov. 20, 2007, at 3:15 p.m., Conyers met with "an individual sent by (Detroit businessman) Rayford W. Jackson" in the Butzel Family Center parking lot and received "an envelope containing cash."

• On Dec. 4, 2007, at 2:30 p.m., "an individual sent by Rayford Jackson" met Conyers and her aide in a McDonald's parking lot in Detroit at which time she received "an envelope containing cash."

James R. Rosendall Jr., a former official with Synagro Technologies Inc., and Jackson earlier pleaded guilty to bribery charges in connection with $1.2 billion contract the Detroit City Council awarded in 2007.

City Council candidate and former deputy police chief Gary Brown said it sounds like the City Hall corruption close is moving to conclusion.

"I'll be glad when this is over," he said.

Detroit News Staff Writesr Christine MacDonald and David Josar contributed to this report.