(WJBK) - A central figure in the Macomb County public corruption scandal is looking at some hard time Thursday.
But a lawyer for the former CEO of Rizzo Environmental Services told a federal judge he was "optimistic" about getting a break on his sentence. Cameras are not allowed in federal court so we can't show Rizzo's response when he heard he could spend 10 years behind bars but for a guy facing jail time, he seemed pretty upbeat.
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Rizzo, who did not respond, cut a deal earlier this week to fork $4 million over to federal investigators to save his mansions in Oakland County.
That deal also requires him to cooperate with the feds, meaning an end to the kind of conduct that got him in trouble in the first place.
Specifically, Rizzo says he bribed local officials including Clinton Township Trustee Dean Reynold and Macomb Township Trustee Clifford Frietas to support contracts for Rizzo Environmental Services.
After the feds learned about the schemes, they used Rizzo to help nail those guys and a slew of other elected officials. Then it got weird.
Rizzo decided to fight the charges against him, before ultimately deciding last month to plead guilty to conspiracy bribery and fraud charges.
Wayne State University Law Professor Peter Henning has said Rizzo's flip-flopping could cost him some good will with the feds.
"They will note his cooperation," Henning said. "But they will also note he forced the government to indict him. That doesn't put him in as strong a position to beg for mercy from the judge."
The feds now want a judge to give Rizzo more than six years in prison. During an appearance in federal court in Port Huron, they added that they might still ask the judge to give Rizzo a break, depending on how much cooperation he provides as the case against everyone else in their federal crosshairs goes forward,
Judge Robert Cleland said today that Rizzo faces up to 10 years in prison, but he hasn't yet decided on a sentence. Rizzo will have to wait until at least next year to find out how much time he'll get.