Port Huron – Depending on one's point of view, a former Clinton Township trustee is either a “shakedown artist” or a hapless man so beset by financial problems he turned to friends for personal loans.
Those were the differing descriptions offered to jurors Wednesday as Dean Reynolds became the first person to stand trial in a Macomb County corruption scandal that has led to charges against 20 contractors and public officials and produced 15 convictions.
Attorneys for the federal government and the defendant made their opening statements as the trial began for Reynolds, 51, on 10 counts of bribery and four counts of bribery conspiracy.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Gardey told jurors that evidence – including government wiretaps and secretly made recordings between Reynolds, contractors and FBI undercover agents – will show he accepted thousands of dollars in cash, legal services and even a “luxurious” trip to Disney World, in exchange for his votes on the Clinton Township board.
“You will have a front row seat to corruption,” Gardey promised the jury of six men and eight women. “… Dean Reynolds was a shakedown artist who betrayed the trust of the people in Clinton Township, betrayed his oath of office and put his office up for sale to the highest bidder.”
Gardey said recordings that will be played during the trial will show Reynolds ‘greed’ in four chapters: selling his vote to trash disposal contractor Chuck Rizzo to obtain extensions on multi-million dollar waste hauling contracts; supporting a towing contract with Gasper Fiore in exchange for $7,000; accepting bribes from engineering contractor Paulin Modi; and even bird-dogging an official in neighboring New Haven who Reynolds believed would be receptive to a bribe arrangement with Rizzo.
Thousands of dollars in cash – in various amounts -- exchanged hands in each of the schemes, Gardey said. Reynolds, who was going through a divorce, also received more than $50,000 in free legal services from Rizzo’s attorney, he said.
Many of the people Gardey mentioned in his opening arguments have already entered guilty pleas, including Rizzo, Fiore and Modi.
Reynolds’ attorney, Steven Rabaut, asked jurors to keep an open mind during the trial.
“I submit to you that when you hear the evidence – complete portions, not pieces – it is going to give you an entirely different context,” Rabaut said.
He portrayed Reynolds as a man who found himself unemployed when a company partly owned by him failed. Then his marriage collapsed and he was left with financial problems.
“Listen to these tapes and how the money is described … there is no quid pro quo,” Rabaut told jurors. “These weren’t bribes. These were friends offering him loans.”
Rabaut described Rizzo as “like a big brother” to his client.
The trial is to continue Thursday in Cleland’s courtroom with the first witness, FBI Special Agent Robert Beeckman.