Former Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds was sentenced to 17 years in prison Feb. 6 in the U.S. District Court in Port Huron for his role in a corruption scheme.

Former Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds was sentenced to 17 years in prison Feb. 6 in the U.S. District Court in Port Huron for his role in a corruption scheme.

Photo by Nick Mordowanec


Reynolds gets 17 years in prison in Macomb County corruption case

Judge calls former Clinton Township Trustee's actions ‘embarrassing’ and ‘astoundingly remorseless’

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published February 7, 2019

 Richard Korn, the attorney for Reynolds, leaves court after his client was sentenced.

Richard Korn, the attorney for Reynolds, leaves court after his client was sentenced.

Photo by Nick Mordowanec

PORT HURON — Former Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynolds, 51, is going away for a long time.

Reynolds, who was found guilty by a U.S. District Court jury in June 2018 of 10 counts of bribery and four counts of conspiracy, was sentenced to 204 months — or 17 years — behind bars by District Judge Robert Cleland Feb. 6 in Port Huron.

He was the original arrestee as part of a Macomb County corruption probe, due to accepting more than $150,000 in bribes in four separate bribery conspiracies involving four different government contracts.

The former public official looked slightly disheveled as he sat in court, wearing an orange jumpsuit adorned with the words, “Sanilac County Jail.” His feet were conjoined by ankle shackles, his body noticeably thinner than it was during his six-day trial last year.

Prior to Cleland’s sentence, Reynolds was advised by the judge that he could say anything he wanted before his fate was decided. The defendant chose to be silent.

 

Revisiting testimony
Prior to sentencing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta and Reynolds’ appointed counsel, Richard Korn, an attorney based out of Detroit, deliberated the merit of the defendant’s sentence guidelines as related to his crimes.

Original guidelines offered a range between 235 and 293 months.

Court documents filed Jan. 23 by Korn, on behalf of Reynolds, mirrored his argument Feb. 6, which stated, “It cannot be denied that the offenses of which (the) defendant was convicted are serious, as bribery causes people to lose faith in their elected officials and, hence, the fundamental institutions of democracy.”

He added that the sentence should be “fair, just and sufficient, but not greater than necessary.” He said the financial harm levied upon Clinton Township due to Reynolds’ actions should also be taken into account.

Court documents show that Korn, in his Feb. 5 reply to the government’s response for Reynolds’ motion for downward variance, specifically mentions the township’s Jan. 14, 2019, Board of Trustees meeting in which the seven members publicly discussed the future of their trash contract, formerly with Rizzo Environmental Services.

In that document, as well as on Feb. 6 in federal court, Korn mentioned how Township Supervisor Bob Cannon and Public Services Director Mary Bednar both touted the current refuse contract for its financial benefits. As Korn explained, rates for the township’s contract — which are set to expire in March 2026 — are nearly $4 cheaper per resident and per month than rates for residents in Chesterfield Township, where a different contract was eventually approved.

In his Jan. 23 filing, Korn asked for Judge Cleland to consider national sentencing guidelines when sentencing Reynolds. Korn mentioned how in the years ranging from 2013 to 2017, the national average federal sentence of defendants convicted of bribery was 29.8 months.

He even referenced sentencing guidelines related to former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

In turn, Korn asked for a 60-month sentence for Reynolds — an approximate 80 percent reduction, according to the sentence guideline range outlined in the government’s sentencing memorandum.

“This argument fails because it does not do what the guidelines do, which is to take into consideration the specifics of the defendant’s bribery offenses,” the prosecution responded in a Feb. 1 motion. “One of the main driving factors in a bribery case is the amount of loss or gain on the corrupted contract. In the defendant’s case, he corrupted a $16 million trash contract, among others, and the profit amount is over $1.5 million.”

Korn’s claims that no financial harm was committed onto the township via Reynolds’ acts was also met with rebuttal. Prosecuting attorneys argued that just because a company performed “competently on a corrupted contract,” it would be “unfair” to reward Reynolds for his nefarious activities.

“Of course, worse than the monetary harm is the defendant’s harm to the integrity of government and the faith of the electorate, damages that cannot be measured in dollars and cents,” prosecuting attorneys for the government argued in a pre-sentence report.

On Feb. 6, Bullotta stated, “The crime of bribery takes place once the agreement is made.”

Korn believed that testimony made last June by Reynolds’ former best friend, Angelo Selva, was “not sufficient” due to the witness’s reported short-term memory loss. Cleland disagreed, saying Selva’s testimony was “cogent” and that he admitted on the stand what he could not recall.

 

‘Shameless and astoundingly remorseless behavior’
Korn, who replaced previous defense attorney Stephen Rabaut, stated that “a sentence within the guidelines would be a harsh and unreasonable sentence,” adding that it would “overstate the severity of what he’s done.”

He attempted to make the case that bribery was not as big an illegality as that of racketeering or money laundering, once again referencing the Kilpatrick case.

Korn added that Reynolds possessed no criminal record, engaged in charitable endeavors, helped provide college scholarships to local high school students, and is devoted to his son.

“Mr. Reynolds, like a lot of us, is basically a good person. … He himself was corrupted by greed and by power,” Korn said.

Bullotta said Reynolds had already rejected a 10-year plea deal agreement. And throughout all the bribes and different characters investigated and exposed by the FBI, Reynolds had nobody to blame but himself.

“The defendant, Mr. Reynolds, was the pressure,” Bullotta said. “He was the shakedown artist. … I’ve never seen a defendant take such a lack of responsibility in his actions.”

Cleland did not hold back, saying that Reynolds’ background showed “echoes and hints” of behavior that “is not isolated and not particularly new.” Reynolds showed what Cleland described as “shameless and astoundingly remorseless behavior.”

He even commented on the myriad wiretaps used during the trial, in which Reynolds was “virtually begging” for cash — something the judge called “embarrassing.”

In terms of the lingering damage done to the perception of local and county government, Cleland said that “cannot be calculated, cannot be monetized.”

“Citizens pay taxes and work hard and presumably try to play by the rules. … When that is absent and taken away … it’s a void, a scar, that takes a long time to heal,” Cleland said.

Following sentencing, Korn expressed concern for a possibly cancerous mass on Reynolds’ kidney. Following his conviction, Reynolds was immediately remanded to U.S. Marshals and the Bureau of Prisons.

Korn requested that Reynolds be placed in a federal facility in Milan. Cleland complied.

Outside the courthouse, Korn called it an “extremely severe and unreasonable sentence.” When asked if Reynolds was apologetic for his actions, or whether a show of remorse would have played to his favor, Korn said he could not comment.

He had worked with Reynolds for months and stated that, in his understanding of the trial evidence, it was “a very complicated situation” and that the final sentence was “extreme.”

“He feels so bad about everything that happened in this case,” Korn said. “The impact on his son and his family — it’s just a tragedy. The whole thing is a tragedy.”

Korn also discussed why Reynolds did not make a statement before being sentenced.

“(Reynolds) wanted to talk about certain details in the case that he felt were not entirely accurate,” he said. “My assessment was, that in terms of the big picture, those details really weren’t going to make that much of a difference.”

Following adjournment, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gardey said the government was “very happy” with Cleland’s sentence, adding, “It’s a very fair resolution.”

U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said this in a prepared statement: “The court’s sentence shows that public officials who violate the trust of their communities by taking bribes and betraying their oaths of office will not escape our pursuit of justice.”