A deeper dive into the federal corruption investigation involving top St. Louis-area political figures suggests even more officials were involved than just the four convicted and sentenced last year. A careful parsing of prosecution documents strongly suggests that former U.S. Rep. William Lacy Clay and Alderman Brandon Bosley may also have been targets of the federal corruption probe.
Federal agents apparently had reason to believe multiple public servants would be willing to accept bribes or kickbacks if the right circumstances presented themselves. The FBI found a willing accomplice in local businessman Mohammad Almuttan, whose own felony indictment gave him sufficient motive to cooperate in hopes of getting a reduced sentence. So the FBI wired him up and sent Almuttan out to cast a wide net, yielding convictions and prison time for former Aldermanic President Lewis Reed and Aldermen Jeffrey Boyd and John Collins-Muhammad. Also convicted was Tony Weaver, a senior St. Louis County political appointee.
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Justice must continue being served for all who abuse their public offices for personal profit. If Clay and Bosley were involved, as reporting by the Post-Dispatch’s Jacob Barker and Austin Huguelet indicates, they must be held accountable. Both deny involvement in the Almuttan scandal.
Temptations abound for public servants to earn hefty incomes on the side by providing special favors for deep-pocketed lobbyists and business people. When money or goods are offered in exchange for those favors, public officials have two choices: Say no and walk away, or accept the bribe and risk the legal consequences. Reed, Boyd and Collins-Muhammad were caught in audio and video recordings choosing the latter option, and the consequences will endure for the rest of their lives.
That said, a lot of questions still are left begging for answers. Who directed Almuttan to approach them along with, apparently, Clay and Bosley, to offer bribes in exchange for the help Almuttan sought with special tax breaks and property acquisitions? If federal agents were the ones directing Almuttan, it seems suspicious that Black officials apparently were the only ones targeted as corruptible. So far, nothing has
surfaced publicly to suggest that any non-Black public officials were targeted.
And if Clay and Bosley were caught in recordings accepting bribe money, why have they not been indicted? Several clues in prosecution documents point to Clay as the unidentified “Public Official One” who accepted an envelope containing $10,000 in cash during a meeting with Almuttan and Collins-Muhammad. The money was returned with instructions to make campaign donations in the same amount. In a separate meeting with an alderman whose profile and actions closely match those of Bosley, the unidentified alderman directed a $2,000 payment to be made in exchange for help securing a tax break.
The fact that the individuals involved so readily succumbed to corrupt temptations can’t be ignored. But neither can the racial dimensions attached to those who were targeted.