House Speaker Lee Chatfield at the Mackinac Policy Conference, May 30, 2019 | Andrew Roth
House Speaker Lee Chatfield doesn’t want to take the witness stand in the trial of state Rep. Larry Inman (R-Williamsburg), who had been indicted for bribery, lying to federal law enforcement and extortion.
Caledonia attorney John Bursch filed a motion Tuesday to void the testimonial subpoena of Chatfield, a Levering Republican, on the basis that the information requested falls under “the privilege that protects state legislators from the compelled disclosure of information relating to the legislative process.”
The motion also states that by requiring Chatfield to testify, it would prevent him from reaching a conclusion on Fiscal Year 2020 budget negotiations. The trial is scheduled to start on Dec. 3, during the week that the Legislature returns from its annual hunting and Thanksgiving break.
Inman was indicted in May. He allegedly soliciting campaign donations from the Michigan Regional Council of Carpenters and Millwrights (MRCC) and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in 2018 over the efforts to repeal Michigan’s prevailing wage law, which was ultimately successful.
He pleaded not guilty to the indictment, and if convicted, could face up to 20 years in prison. In addition to Chatfield, the defense lists three sitting lawmakers as potential witnesses: state Reps. Gary Howell (R-North Branch), Steve Marino (R-Harrison Twp.) and Joe Bellino (R-Monroe).
Bursch, the former solicitor general under GOP former Attorney General Bill Schuette, wrote in the motion that Chatfield is being requested to testify on “the authenticity of a few texts between the Speaker and Defendant Inman, Defendant Inman’s mental capacity, and Defendant Inman’s need for money.”
But Bursch argues that Chatfield is a “nonessential witness” to the trial and that he is unfit to speak on Inman’s mental state or need for money because he was not Speaker of the House at the time the alleged crimes took place.
He did, however, offer to present texts between Chatfield and Inman and authenticate them through an affidavit. The federal government denied this offer.
The state House has not moved to expel Inman. In August, however, a resolution urging him to resign passed overwhelmingly. It was sponsored by Chatfield and co-sponsored by House Minority Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills).
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