Former Detroit Councilman Andre Spivey, who pleaded guilty to bribery in September, began asking for money in 2016 when his children's tuition bills and other family expenses began to mount, according to court records filed Tuesday.
While prosecutors said he was driven by greed, Spivey portrayed himself as a family and religious man who quietly asked close friends for loans to help deal with his financial problems.
"Mr. Spivey became more entrenched in a cycle of financial distress," a sentencing memorandum filed Tuesday on Spivey's behalf reads. "He made innocent, but poor, choices that he now understands crossed legal boundaries. He takes full accountability for his actions."
Spivey, 47, deserves only probation for pleading guilty to a federal bribery conspiracy charge, the memo reads.
Last week, prosecutors asked the court to impose a sentence of 40 months in prison. U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts is scheduled to sentence Spivey on Jan. 19.
More: Feds: Ex-Detroit councilman Andre Spivey took $35K in bribes, used $2K for Las Vegas trip
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Prosecutors argue Spivey deserves a stiff prison sentence because he put his own greed ahead of the public's interest, repeatedly seeking bribes and taking steps to conceal his behavior.
Spivey, who served on the council for nearly a dozen years, admitted to taking $35,900 in bribes when he pleaded guilty. He accepted the bribes in exchange for his assistance with a pending vehicle towing ordinance before Detroit City Council, he said in court. The bribes were paid over the course of eight separate meetings between February 2018 and February 2020 with a confidential FBI source.
The case is part of an ongoing federal corruption investigation into Detroit's towing operations and other matters. The confidential source, whom authorities have not named, is in the towing industry.
Spivey provided more details about his relationship with the confidential FBI source on Tuesday.
Spivey met the source in 2008 when he was campaigning for council, according to the sentencing memo. The source "sought counsel from Mr. Spivey in his role as a cleric," according to the memo.
Spivey first asked the source for a $1,000 loan in 2016, according to the sentencing memo, which characterizes other illicit payments Spivey accepted from the source as loans.
Despite taking several payments from the source, Spivey wasn't that much help to him, the memo argues.
Spivey often voted against the source's interests at the council table, according to the memo. For example, when the source gave him $2,000 and asked for help resolving problems with the city, "Spivey merely offered again to look into the matters, although he had absolutely no control over the administration's award of contracts or litigation strategy," the memo reads.
A sentence of probation would be appropriate for other reasons, the memo contends.
For one, former Detroit Councilman Gabe Leland was sentenced to probation last year when he pleaded guilty in Wayne County Circuit Court to felony misconduct in office for accepting a $7,500 campaign contribution in cash.
Spivey also cooperated with authorities beginning in 2020. Spivey and his attorney, Elliott Hall, "met for several months with authorities and cooperated extensively to help investigate and eventually prosecute others," the memo reads, although names of those prosecuted based on Spivey's cooperation are not included.
"He feels awful that he brought embarrassment to his family, the residents he represented, his former staff, friends and supporters," the memo reads. "He knows that people worked very hard campaigning for him and expected him to do what is right. This conviction negated the good work he had done over the past 21 years both as a clergyperson and an elected official."
Religious leaders, some of Spivey's colleagues at city hall and others wrote letters to Roberts asking for leniency.
Former Council President Brenda Jones, who did not run for reelection last year, said Spivey is loved by many City Council colleagues and staffers who reached out to her to express support and concern for his future.
"He is still my friend and I love him," Jones wrote. "Now, that doesn't mean I support bad decisions, but from what I know about Andre, his own conscience has to be working him over every day."
Contact Joe Guillen: email@example.com or 313-222-6678. You can follow him on Twitter @joeguillen.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Spivey seeks probation in Detroit bribery case, calls payments 'loans'