May 24, 2010 at 9:36 pm
“Everybody is speculating, but I’ll tell you: I’m turning myself in tomorrow,” Sam Riddle told the News Blawg when we ran into him at Floods Bar and Grille with a small circle of well-wishers and supporters early Monday evening. He portrayed the slammer as a detour rather than the end of a political career.

Political consultant Riddle’s course was set last Thursday in U.S. District when he and co-defendant Mary Waters entered guilty pleas in their federal bribery and extortion case in connection with the Southfield City Council’s approval of the relocation and expansion of Zeidman’s Jewelry and Loan.

Riddle pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to commit bribery, extortion and to file fraudulent tax returns — punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

As summarized in last week’s press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eastern District:

In entering his guilty plea, Riddle admitted to conspiring to bribe [Southfield City] Councilman [William] Latimore with $12,500 in order to influence and reward Lattimore in connection with his vote for the relocation of a pawn shop in Southfield. Riddle also pleaded guilty to conduct related to his business dealings with Monica Conyers. Riddle admitted to conspiring with Monica Conyers and other individuals to interfere with commerce through extortion. Riddle and Conyers used Conyers’ position on the Detroit City Council and on the Board of Trustees for the General Retirement System to force businessmen and consultants to pay money to Riddle and Conyers for favorable votes on matters coming before the Detroit City Council. In total, Riddle is alleged to have extorted over $40,000. Lastly, Riddle pleaded guilty to conspiring with other individuals to evade payment of taxes to the Internal Revenue Service for tax years 2006 and 2007. As part of his guilty plea, Riddle agreed to forfeit a Breitling Watch as the proceeds of his conspiracy to commit bribery and extortion.

Waters, meanwhile, for her role in the scheme pleaded guilty to one count of filing a fraudulent tax return, a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison. Lattimore had previously pleaded guilty to taking $7,500 from Riddle and Waters. Sentencing for Riddle and Waters is set for August 17.

“This type of corruption,” said U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, “erodes public confidence and undermines the strength of our democracy.”

And to cite the strategy laid out by the Freep’s Ben Schmitt on Monday, by turning himself in on his federal case and asking to have his bond canceled Tuesday — before Wednesday’s scheduled sentencing on his state weapons and felonious assault (against Waters) convictions — Riddle can start the clock and have his prison sentences run concurrently for the 37 months max of the federal plea deal.

Asked about his state of mind on Monday, Riddle, decked in white, had a few words for us, too:

I don't think anyone likes going to fucking jail. I don't relish the thought of going to fucking jail, but I'm going to do my time get it over with come back and do what I've always done — fight for a better Detroit. I'll be back and I'll be back in the ring known as Detroit.

I was at two funerals this week: one of a 7-year-old and one of a 17-year-old where I was invited to speak — at the funeral of the 17-year-old. Dave Bing was there Chief Evans was there, and I think I got a pretty good response from the people when I said, “Hi, my name is Sam Riddle; I'm on my way to jail and I don't want any of you going down that road,” and then we went on from there, but I got a very good response.

When we asked how it came to this road, how Sam Riddle with his promising career was headed to jail, he answered in the narrowest way possible:

What went wrong with me was I lost the state case, and after I lost the state case I had to cut my losses. I couldn't gamble on the federal case. It wasn't worth it.

But after his time — let’s see, 37 months from now is June 2013 — he insisted, “Hell, yeah, I’ll be back.”

Photo: Riddle (right) with supporter John Telford. (By W. Kim Heron)