Detroit has long been a sewer of corruption, but the Riddle case has taken the city to even deeper depths of hell. Today the judge presiding over the case against Sam Riddle, political consultant to Monica Conyers, declared a mistrial. Angela Woods, the only African American juror, refused to deliberate or even discuss the case with the other jurors, creating a deadlock. The other jurors have accused Woods of siding with Riddle because of race:
Jurors Matt Lefevre and Jay Gandhi described a jury room bordering on mayhem during deliberations.
“I thought she was going to hit me over the head,” Gandhi said of the holdout juror.
“There was a lot of yelling and screaming,” Lefevre said. “She wouldn’t sit at the table half the time. I pray to God every day that they retry this case.”
Juror Margaret Elyakin talked about the holdout juror.
“I felt right from the beginning she had a vendetta. She was accusing us of being racist, that we were thinking he was guilty just because he was black, which is very untrue,” Elyakin said.
Juror Sue Persichini said the holdout juror never defended her position.
“She said we had all made our minds and we really hadn’t. We all went in with an open mind.” Persichini said.
Not only did this one juror refuse to discuss the case for the entire six days of jury deliberations, but she then accused those who wanted to deliberate the evidence of having their minds made up because Mr. Riddle was black.
Here’s what Ms. Woods had to say for herself:
Whatever reason Angela Woods had for being the lone holdout on convicting Sam Riddle in his federal bribery case she is keeping close to the vest.
Woods, the only African-American on the jury, steadfastly refused to answer questions from reporters over whether she played the race card in refusing to go along with her fellow jurors and convict Riddle, who is also black.
Woods, a 37-year-old flight attendant, was swarmed by reporters and camera crews at her home several hours after the mistrial was announced in the federal corruption case.
We all had a responsibility. … I don’t owe anyone anything … not an explanation,” a stoic Woods said Wednesday. At times, she looked to be near tears. “It’s over. It’s done with. The judge made a decision.”
“I will not be commenting on this now, not later, nor in the future,” she said.
Of course she doesn’t want to discuss the case. She can’t justify why she stonewalled for the entire six days of deliberations, in spite of listening to testimony like this:
Riddle was charged with extorting bribes from people and businesses hoping to do business in Detroit in exchange for Monica Conyers voting in their favor at city council meetings.
Jim St. John, president of Déjà vu Consulting, based in Lansing, was the first witness today in Day 3 of the bribery and extortion trial against Riddle in U.S. District Court.
St. John told jurors that he met with Riddle in the fall of 2006 at an Andiamo restaurant in Dearborn and that Riddle purported himself to be an aide to then-Detroit City Councilwoman Monica Conyers.
St. John and his partner, Joe Hall, were trying to get a topless bar license transferred to a club on Congress in Detroit. Riddle told them he could have Conyers’ vote for $25,000, St. John testified.
“I was a little shocked and definitely concerned,” St. John said. “I interpreted it as bribery. I thought: ‘Are they trying to set me up?’ “
Hall testified this morning that he was also fearful that Riddle was trying to entrap them.
“Here’s a guy asking me for $25,000 and he’s wearing a gravy-stained tracksuit,” Hall said. “It was like something out of a bad movie.”
St. John testified that he, Hall and local consultant Chris Jackson, who was assisting Déjà vu, sent Riddle away from the table.
When Riddle returned, they told him they would not pay the money, St. John said.
St. John said he and Hall met with their attorney the following day and he advised them not to report the incident to authorities.
The following week, Detroit City Council voted 5-4 against the topless bar license transfer.
St. John said had Conyers voted in his favor, “I would have been in business, but at what price?”
Hall testified: “We don’t bribe people. That’s not what we do.”