State Rep. Brian Banks resigns from position, pleads guilty

- For eight months, state Rep. Brian Banks and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette have been playing a game of political chicken.

In the end, it was Banks who laid the egg.

Schuette charged Banks with fraud for allegedly using false payroll records to obtain a loan from a credit union. Because the incident occurred in 2010 - before Banks was first elected to the state House - Banks, a Democrat, claimed the Republican AG was trying to meddle in the fiercely-contested 1st District Democratic primary.

In court he read his letter of resignation.

"To Speaker Tom Leonard and Democratic Leader Sam Singh, I Brian Banks, representative for the first House District, submit my letter of resignation from the House of Representatives," he said in court. "It has been my honor to serve the residents of the First District. This is effective today, Feb. 6, 2017."

Banks and his attorney Ben Gonek repeatedly tried to derail the case by claiming political skullduggery, but Wayne County Circuit Judge Michael Hathaway ruled that the key question was not why Banks may have been charged, but whether he committed the crimes alleged in the charges. Hathaway also warned everyone involved in the case that he would not tolerate any shenanigans when the case went to trial.

Banks tried - and failed - in a last-ditch attempt to delay the trial in Hathaway’s courtroom. Had he succeeded, the case would have been assigned to another judge.
The stakes for Banks were high. If convicted, he could have been pressured to resign his seat in the Michigan House - or faced expulsion. As an eight-time felon, Banks also could have faced up to life in prison.

The trial was scheduled to start today at 9 a.m. with jury selection, but instead lawyers for both sides spent the first few hours working behind closed doors on a plea deal.

In the end, Banks decided he would rather quit the state house than face the big house, reaching a deal that required him to stop serving the public rather than risk serving time.

The deal allowed Banks to plead guilty to a misdemeanor in return for resigning from elected office immediately.

Banks must still be formally sentenced, but Hathaway said he would not have to spend any time behind bars. It is not clear whether Banks will be able to run for his recently-vacated seat when a special election is held.

Others weighed in on Banks' guilty plea today, including Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.

"As an elected official, you carry a higher burden of responsibility and are expected to act as a role model in your community. Former Representative Banks violated the trust placed in him by his neighbors and constituents."

Two competing candidates hoping on running for Banks' open seat also released statements.

William Broman: "Brian Banks should have resigned before the November election.  Detroiters deserve a representative who will fight for them every day to tackle the issues plaguing the district from 48205 to Lakeshore Drive."

Pamela M. Sossi: "While today's news about Brian Banks saddens me, I applaud him for resigning, rather than dragging the constituents of District 1 through a lengthy felony trial."

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