Monica Conyers' Sentencing Hearing

Monica Conyers, wife of Rep. John Conyers, was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison this week for her part in a corruption case in Detroit. Her sentencing hearing did not go smoothly, and she unsuccessfully attempted to withdraw her gulity plea (begins on page 3.)

Here's the transcript of her sentencing hearing. Here's the Government's sentencing memo and the Plea Agreement. Some background here.[More...]

The Judge was going to increase her guideline range, based on information that came out at Sam Riddle's trial (which ended in a mistrial, some background here)and then changed his mind, but sentenced her to the top of the 30-37 month guideline as calculated by both parties. Mrs. Conyers has now been provided with court-apppointed counsel for her appeal.

Law Prof Doug Berman at Sentencing Law and Policy thinks she will have an uphill battle. I tend to agree. Prosecutors often insist, unfairly in my view, that defendants waive their right to appeal in plea agreements. Many courts have upheld this, including the Sixth Circuit.

But I also think the Judge's last minute decision not to consider as relevant conduct evidence from the Sam Riddle trial was insufficient. He'd obviously considered it and thought it passed the "preponderance of the evidence" test applicable to such decisions, and Conyers never had a chance to refute it. Her lawyer wasn't at Riddle's trial to cross-examine the testimony and evidence. If that evidence was the reason he chose to sentence her 37 months, the top of the agreed-upon guideline range, , and it seems likely it was, since the testimony occurred after her signing of the plea agreement, there should have been a hearing at which she got to challenge it.

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    She could have gotten (1.00 / 1) (#2)
    by jbindc on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 11:03:49 AM EST
    60 months, so it's pretty sill for her to act all surprised that she got 37 months, from one of the most liberal judges on the ED of Michigan bench, and with a very good defense attorney whom I'm sure advised her well all the way.

    This woman also has a very shady reputation - nothing else proven illegal - but if you've watched the Detroit City Council, you'd know what I mean. And if you think there was any exculpatory evidence from the Sam Riddle trial, then you need to be aware of more damning evidence that came out about Monica Conyers, such as:

    Riddle's trial, which ended in a hung jury and is set for a redo in July, heard evidence that Conyers would regularly eat at Mosaic in Greektown and refuse to pay her bill, frequently hit up a city developer for cash for shopping trips and her child's tuition, and on one occasion shocked Melvin Washington of the Phoenix Group by reaching into his pocket in public and grabbing a wad of cash.

    Even her attorney said this:

    "I don't believe that anything that came out in the Sam Riddle trial will have any effect whatsoever on Monica Conyers' sentencing."

    Do not weep for Monica.  While this is a pro-defendant site, even criminal defense attorneys who really know the facts of this case have to realize that she earned every day of this sentence.

    Do you think perhaps, even shady characters might (1.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Rojas on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 12:59:52 PM EST
    have the right to confront the witnesses against him?
    And you do realize many of the DNA exonerations involve those who plead guilty.

    I suppose it might be a difficult concept, but every member cut from a truss can weaken it exponentially.


    Um (none / 0) (#4)
    by jbindc on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 01:43:00 PM EST
    She pled guilty, ergo, no right to confront witnesses.  She had the chance to go to trial, and chose not to (on the advice of her very good criminal defense attorney - who may actually know more about this than us).

    And you do really need to follow Detroit City politics to understand my comment.  Poor Monica is certainly no one's scapegoat, despite what she says for the press. She's lucky she only got 37 months.


    Oh (none / 0) (#5)
    by jbindc on Sun Mar 14, 2010 at 01:48:56 PM EST
    And since the judge did not take other considerations into her sentence, your comment makes no sense as there was nothing to confront.

    Part of the controversy over her attempted plea withdrawal stemmed from Cohn's comments that he would consider other "relevant conduct," such as alleged shakedowns of a strip club, a technology company and a real estate developer with matters before the City Council or the General Retirement System, where Conyers sat as a trustee.

    Those alleged acts, detailed in the recent trial of political consultant and former Conyers aide Sam Riddle, involved more than $60,000 in illegal payments. Taking them into account increased Conyers' sentencing guidelines -- which are advisory only -- from 30-37 months to 46-57 months.

    Conyers protested vehemently, saying she denied all the allegations.

    "Everything Sam has done, he has done on his own," she said, adding that some of the FBI wiretaps of Riddle's cell phone exonerate her and she also has made her own tapes of conversations with Riddle, Detroit businessman and local Synagro partner Rayford W. Jackson, and others.

    Cohn relented, saying he would not consider the other conduct and would leave Conyers' sentencing guidelines at 30-37 months.

    Again - it helps if you actually understand the cesspool that Detroit politics is.  Makes Chicago look like recess on the playground.


    It helps if you follow the thread (none / 0) (#6)
    by Rojas on Mon Mar 15, 2010 at 07:55:35 AM EST
    Jer raised two specific points.
    Monica plead guilty to a specific act. Other alleged acts had no bearing on the case and it's outrageous that they would enter into the judge's decision. It's a clear sixth amendment violation.

    The other point has to do with waiving the right to an appeal as a condition of a plea agreement. Clearly, recent DNA exoneration cases from Texas and other states show that people plea for reasons other than guilt. If you value justice that should be a cause for concern.
    Hell, we actually have a DA in Texas who wants to make destruction of DNA evidence a condition of a plea agreement. The bastard should be run out of town on a rail. But he hasn't been. In fact, he actually thrives in this environment because of people like you.

    I understand that you find the concepts in the BOR to be a distraction from the task at hand. You've made that clear enough. There are others who would choose not to live in the cesspool you have in mind.


    It helps if you read (none / 0) (#7)
    by jbindc on Mon Mar 15, 2010 at 12:08:02 PM EST
    The judge did not consider other factors outside her plea. He was going to, in which case, she would have gotten up to the maximum 5 years, but he didn't.  And the fact that criminal defense attorneys (especially who practice in the area and actually, you know, know the case) all pretty much agree that she got a fair sentence and is going to have a very difficult time appealing it - especially as she is on tape (which, by the way, also came out at the other trial of her CoS) damning herself further - and as the very liberal judge Avern Cohn presided over both trials, I'll defer to his expertise on what is or isn't a Sixth Amendment violation, as opposed to random commenters on a blog.

    The only cesspool here is the one created by Monica Conyers and her absolute betrayal of the public trust.


    Monica pled guilty to 30-37 months (none / 0) (#1)
    by diogenes on Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 04:07:04 PM EST
    The judge's decision to choose 37 versus 30 months is judicial judgment and not subject to appeal since both parties agreed that 30-37 months was reasonable.  How is an appeals judge going to read the sentencing judge's mind?