Detroit Councilman Leland uses 5th Amendment in lawsuit deposition

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A Detroit City Councilman testified under oath in a civil lawsuit filed by a local businessman who accused him of a shakedown.

FOX 2's ML Elrick got exclusive access to the videotaped deposition, where the businessman's lawyer grilled the councilman.

Bob Carmack sued Gabe Leland in March, claiming that the councilman demanded a bribe back in 2017 to help him with a dispute with the city.

Carmack says he was wearing a wire for the FBI late.  

"I put a wire on and I wore it, and I had a meeting with Mr. Leland," Carmack said. "And Mr. Leland asked me would I, you know, raise him some money for his campaign, and asked me would I give him $15,000 if I didn't sell that lot."

I tried to ask Leland back then about Carmack's claim, but I didn't have a court order, so I didn't get many answers.

ML Elrick: "Councilman, will you talk to us about Robert Carmack?"
Leland: "Burning the midnight oil with me?"
Elrick: "You know, whatever it takes to get some answers. Did you extort Robert Carmack?"
Leland: "Here's a flyer, I've got a lot of activities going on in the district, you can take a look at that." 

Elrick: "Are some of those activities shaking down contractors for money?"

But it turns out that even with a court order, Leland and his lawyer doesn't want to answer many questions about his dealings with Carmack. 

"Do you know Robert Carmack?" 

"Yes," Leland said.

"How do you know Mr. Robert Carmack?

Leland's attorney: "I'm advising Mr. Leland to take, assert his Fifth Amendment privilege for any questions having to do with Robert Carmack."

"In August of 2017 did you make a promise to Robert Carmack that if he gave you $15,000 for your re-election campaign that the city of Detroit would not sell his property located at 8124 Michigan Avenue in Detroit, Michigan?"

"I refuse to answer the question based on my Fifth Amendment rights," Leland answered.

"At any time in 2017 did you extort up to $15,000 from Mr. Robert Carmack?"

"I refuse to answer the question based on my Fifth Amendment rights," Leland said.

Leland did answer some questions, but on his lawyer's advice - declined to answer when asked if the feds are investigating him.

"Do you know whether or not you are currently under investigation for criminal matters by the FBI? 

"I'm going to object on the grounds of relevance," Leland said.

"And I'm going to tell him not to answer that," his attorney chimed in. "There's no way he would know that."

"Have you been contacted by any agent of the FBI for an interview?"

"I going to object on grounds of relevance," Leland's attorney said.

"I refuse to answer the question based on my Fifth Amendment rights," Leland said.

"Have you received a subpoena from the Justice Department or the FBI?"

"I'm going to object on grounds of relevance," his attorney said. "You can answer that."

"No," Leland said.

Leland was also asked about his relationship with tow truck operator Gasper Fiore. Leland used to date Fiore's daughter Jennifer and Elrick reported last year that Leland voted on more than $2 million in contracts benefitting the Fiore family companies.

Gasper Fiore pleaded guilty to bribing public officials caught up in the federal investigation into corruption in Macomb County. Leland's name has not come up in that investigation.

Q: Have you ever received any money from Mr. Gasper Fiore?"

"I refuse to answer that question based on my Fifth Amendment right," Leland said. 

Hours after Leland finished giving his deposition, Elrick called him for comment, but he declined.

His attorney Steve Fishman did release a statement:

"Councilman Leland has not done anything wrong.  Unfortunately, in this climate, where wild accusations are constantly being leaked to the media, any experienced lawyer will not allow his client to answer questions which are only intended to embarrass him. 

"The councilman merely followed my instructions, so if anyone has a gripe about that, blame it on me, not him."