Detroit, MI – Former Detroit Deputy Police Chief Celia Washington wept in court as she pleaded guilty to bribery on Tuesday.
When she accepted the bribe, Washington was the legal adviser to Detroit Police Chief James Craig, and her responsibilities included overseeing the Detroit Police Department’s permitting, licensing, and use of private towing companies, the Detroit Free Press reported.
She was accused of taking $3,000 in cash in an envelope from towing company owner Gasper Fiore for helping him get a good spot on the city’s towing rotation in 2015.
Chief Craig was not involved in the scandal.
"I'm a lawyer. I should have known better," Washington said.
In court, Washington wouldn’t say that she took that $3,000 knowing Fiore wanted something in return, and said she initially thought it was a loan.
Washington told the court Fiore was a friend, and claimed she had asked him for an $800 loan two-and-a-half years earlier.
But prosecutors presented evidence that Washington spent some of the $3,000, and that she was caught on a wiretap apologizing to Fiore after he lost out on a city towing deal.
“I hope you’re not mad at me,” Washington told Fiore on the wiretap. “I tried to help you.”
She told the court she had no authority over the towing rotation, and that she did no favors for Fiore. She also claimed she tried to pay back the “loan,” but that Fiore wouldn’t accept the money.
"Please accept my plea," Washington said through tears in court. "I can't risk, judge, to be away from my children. I can't. I can't."
But her refusal to admit to the crime was a problem for U.S. District Judge David Lawson, who at first refused to accept the plea bargain deal.
After a brief court recess, Washington came back into the courtroom and read a statement that satisfied the judge, according to the Detroit Free Press.
In the statement, Washington admitted to taking money from Fiore in 2015, "realizing soon after" that he was trying to influence her. She also admitted to spending some of the money.
She faces 18 to 24 months in prison under the plea deal.
The Detroit Free Press reported that Washington resigned from her job at the Detroit Police Department in June, after top brass learned she was under investigation for her ties to Fiore.
Fiore pleaded guilty to bribing a Macomb County official in December. He faces up to five years in prison.
Washington and Fiore were both targets of a public corruption investigation that focused primarily on Macomb County, landing two millionaires in federal court, and charging 18 defendants with crimes.
The Detroit Free Press reported that 14 of the 18 defendants have pleaded guilty so far.