Detroit city councilman subpoenaed over extortion allegations

A bar owner told FOX 2 Problem Solver ML Elrick last month that Detroit City Councilman Gabe Leland extorted him for thousands of dollars in drinks and food. Now ML has obtained a copy of a federal grand jury subpoena investigating those allegations.

As a city councilman, Leland's name appears in all sorts of public records -- but this is one document no one wants their name in: A federal grand jury subpoena.

The subpoena, issued last week, seeks any records supporting Scott Bridgewater's claim that Leland demanded thousands of dollars in free entry, free alcohol and free food in return for Leland's promise to help Bridgewater's bar in a dispute with Detroit officials.

Detroit businessman says councilman extorted him

"That certainly indicates that he is a focus of the investigation, but how far along are prosecutors in building a case?" said Wayne State Law Professor Peter Henning.

The subpoena was issued three weeks after FOX 2 aired ML's interview with Bridgewater, who accused Leland of extorting him.

"He's telling me he's going to help me out. And he demanded free drinks," Bridgewater said.

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Leland's attorney declined to comment. Leland acknowledged during a deposition earlier this summer that he got free drinks at Centre Street Bar. While still under oath, he denied offering to help get city officials off the bar owner's backs in exchange for free food and booze, telling the lawyer grilling him "I've never conducted myself in that manner."

Bridgewater declined to comment on the subpoena, but his attorney issued a statement, saying: "My clients are looking forward to assisting the U.S attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan and the FBI with their ongoing criminal investigation of certain elected and appointed officials of the City of Detroit."

Before Henning became a law professor, he was a federal prosecutor. He says it's too early to tell where the investigation into Bridgewater's claims will end up.

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"Certainly it's gotten the attention of the corruption unit in the united states' attorney's office. They're trying to see if there's something there. There may not be. This is like being a wildcatter, you're going to drill dry holes, every once in a while you get a gusher," he said.

A subpoena isn't proof that leland did anything wrong and even if a grand jury is investigating the councilman, that is no guarantee charges will ever be brought against him.