Longtime Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, Alderman Jeffrey Boyd and former Alderman John Collins-Muhammad were charged Thursday with accepting bribes from a small business owner in exchange for legislation authorizing property tax breaks.
Though speculation had grown in recent weeks that Collins-Muhammad faced federal charges after his sudden resignation from the Board of Aldermen on May 12, citing “mistakes” and a “tough” few weeks ahead, the indictment of Reed and Boyd, two of the board’s longest-serving and most powerful members, came as a surprise to many.
The charges are likely to upend city politics. Both Reed and Boyd have been key players on the Board of Aldermen for more than 15 years. Collins-Muhammad, a Reed ally who was first elected in 2017, had been among the board’s rising newer members.
Reed, 59, is one of the most powerful officials in city government. As president of the Board of Aldermen, a position he was first elected to in 2007, he controls bill assignments to aldermanic committees and presides over the board’s weekly meetings. And along with the mayor and the comptroller, he is one of three members of the city’s top fiscal body, the powerful three-member Board of Estimate and Apportionment that controls city spending.
Reed faces two bribery-related charges, according to U.S. Attorney Sayler Fleming’s office.
Boyd, 58, has been an alderman since 2003 and has run unsuccessfully citywide three times — once for mayor and twice for city treasurer.
He currently chairs the Housing, Urban Development and Zoning Committee, which oversees development-related matters, including incentives. Because of that position, he also serves on the board of the St. Louis Development Corp., which oversees tax abatement and the Land Reutilization Authority.
Boyd is facing two bribery-related charges and a separate, two-count wire fraud indictment alleging he fraudulently sought $22,000 from an insurance company for damage to vehicles that he falsely claimed to own.
Collins-Muhammad, 30, was indicted on two bribery-related charges and one charge of honest services bribery/wire fraud.
The three men, all Democrats, entered not guilty pleas at a court hearing Thursday afternoon.
Boyd declined to comment as he left the federal courthouse. Likewise, Collins-Muhammad and his attorney, Matthew Radefeld, also had no comment.
But Reed told reporters after the hearing that he had no plans to resign and that he would “continue to be a good steward for the city.” An indictment, he said, “doesn’t mean that you’re guilty.”
“The voters know me, the voters know the 20-plus years that I’ve served, they know my record,” Reed said. “Every major development in this city I’ve led for 20 years.”
The charges followed a two-and-a-half year investigation from the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office involving surveillance, hundreds of recorded phone calls and meetings and thousands of text messages and emails, Assistant U.S. Attorney Hal Goldsmith revealed in court.
Goldsmith, who heads public corruption prosecutions, declined to answer questions because the case is pending but said in a statement outside the courthouse that the three defendants accepted cash bribes and other things of value in “pay-to-play schemes” for the passage of board bills and other official action.
The indictment alleges that Collins-Muhammad and later Reed helped a small business owner obtain a property tax abatement from the city for a new gas station and convenience store on Von Phul Street near Interstate 70 that a businessman was seeking to develop in Collins-Muhammad’s 21st Ward on the north side.
The business owner is referred to as “John Doe” in the indictment. But the properties mentioned appear to correspond to sites owned by Mohammed Almuttan that were the subject of federal subpoenas sent to the city’s development arm. The subpoenas were released Wednesday to the Post-Dispatch in response to an open records request.
This is an excerpt from St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Scroll down to leave a comment and share your thoughts.