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Plea hearing set for former St. Louis alderman accused of bribery

John Collins-Muhammad was one of four high profile political figures federally indicted earlier this year.

ST. LOUIS — A plea hearing has been scheduled for former St. Louis Alderman John Collins-Muhammad – one of four St. Louis area public officials indicted in a years-long federal bribery investigation.

A change-of-plea hearing has been set for Aug. 23 before District Judge Stephen R. Clark.

There is a chance he could be detained until his sentencing hearing, but his attorney Joseph Flees thinks it is unlikely. He said he is prepared to show the judge Collins-Muhammad is not a risk to society or a flight risk.

“It would be unusual for him to be detained at this stage, but it’s possible,” Flees said. “After he enters his guilty plea, the judge will order a pre-sentence investigation report where the U.S. Attorney’s Office determines the facts the judge should consider for sentencing. Then, we get to prepare materials for judge to consider.”

Collins-Muhammad is facing three charges, which carry a maximum of 35 years in prison combined. Flees told 5 On Your Side he plans to seek probation and non-incarceration.

"There is no excuse for his conduct, but he has a lot of potential for rehabilitation and he's got a family," Flees said. 

Flees said he expects his client’s sentencing hearing to be set sometime in November or December.

“He has a stable home plan, a job supporting his family, no violations of his pre-trial release conditions, all things I’ll be able to prove, but at the end of the day it’s up to Judge Clark on whether he is detained,” Flees said. “He's not disputing the allegations contained in indictment and wants to accept responsibility for what he did do. 

"He hopes the judge will consider the service he did provide to community and the good works he did in addition to the offense.”

Former St. Louis Alderman Jeffrey Boyd and Board of Alderman President Lewis Reed along with former St. Louis County Executive Sam Page’s political appointee Tony Weaver also got indicted as part of the same investigation.

Page appointed Weaver in January 2020 as the Change Management Coordinator at the St. Louis County Justice Services Center. Page fired him following the indictment, which alleged Weaver participated in a COVID-19 relief funds fraud scheme.

The same informant caught the alleged bribes while wearing wires for the FBI.

Collins-Muhammad’s attorney said his client is not a cooperating witness against the others.

“There is no cooperation agreement with him at this time and I don’t anticipate there will be,” he said. “That’s what everybody seems to assume, and it normally works that way, but not in this case.”

Collins-Muhammad, who resigned from the Board of Aldermen in May, previously pleaded not guilty to the charges, which allege he and former aldermen Jeffrey Boyd and Lewis Reed accepted cash bribes in exchange for advancing tax abatement legislation. Boyd and Reed also pleaded not guilty.

On June 2, Federal prosecutors revealed explosive allegations of bribery, theft and corruption reaching the highest levels of St. Louis City Hall in a 66-page indictment.

Reed and Boyd have also waived their right to pretrial motions – a sign that they are likely to enter pleas to their charges as well.

 

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