Two Michigan lobbyists on Wednesday were sentenced to federal prison terms for their role in paying bribes to Rick Johnson, the former chair of the Michigan Marijuana Licensing Board. Brian Pierce was sentenced to 24 months in prison, along with two years of supervised release and a $25,000 fine, while Vincent Brown was sentenced to 20 months in prison, with two years of supervised release and a $25,000 fine.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Mark Totten said the duo “deliberately bribed Rick Johnson for their own personal gain.”
“As I’ve said before, public corruption is a poison to our democracy and shatters the people’s trust in public officials. My office will hold offenders accountable – whomever, whenever, and wherever we find corruption and blatant disregard for the rule of law.” — Totten in a press release
Pierce and Brown worked as lobbyists in Lansing and did business together as Philip Alan Brown Consulting, LLC and Michigan Grower’s Consultants, LLC and lobbied on behalf of various businesses seeking operating licenses from the licensing board. The pair admitted paying Johnson a total of $40,000 between June 2017 to November 2018 when Johnson was chair of the board, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Michigan said in a press release. At Johnson’s request, Pierce paid a total of $2,000 to a Detroit exotic dancer who was having commercial sex with Johnson. Those payments were made to influence and reward Johnson in connection with his official duties on the board, including receiving his assistance for their clients who applied for licenses to operate in the cannabis industry.
Last month, Johnson, a Republican who previously served as Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, was sentenced to nearly five years in prison for accepting the bribes. In all, Johnson said he accepted a total of at least $110,000 in bribes. During his sentencing, Johnson told the judge he was a “corrupt politician.”
Michigan businessman John Dalaly was also sentenced last month to more than two years in prison after admitting to paying Johnson at least $68,200 in cash and other benefits, including two private flights to Canada and hiring Johnson’s wife, who helped him fill out forms that would end up in front of the state Medical Marijuana Licensing Board, as a consultant for $4,000 a month.
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