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FBI Didn’t Trap City Official in Bribery Plot

CHICAGO (CN) - A city councilman who accepted bribes from an undercover FBI agent posing as a strip club owner cannot argue entrapment, the 7th Circuit ruled.

Longtime police officer Lincoln Plowman won a seat on the Indianapolis City Council in 2003 and 2007. He served as the council majority leader and was chairman of the city zoning committee.

"While serving in these official positions, Plowman apparently developed a reputation for his questionable use of the power and influence he had acquired," according to the 7th Circuit.

As part of an FBI investigation, an undercover agent posed as "Mark," the owner of a "five star" strip club, and met with Plowman in August 2009 to discuss expansion plans in Indianapolis.

At their very first meeting, Plowman offered to "push" the necessary licenses through the Board of Zoning Appeals in exchange for money.

Over the next four months, Plowman made several offers to secure zoning variances and a liquor license for the proposed strip club. In exchange, Plowman requested a $5,000 cash payment in advance, to be followed by a $1,000 donation to his campaign fund.

In December 2009, Plowman met Mark in a hotel room to discuss the progress of their deal. After Plowman accepted a $5,000 cash payment, FBI agents entered the room and revealed the sting operation.

Plowman, who retired from public service three months later, was indicted nearly a year later for federal-funds bribery and attempted extortion.

Before trial, U.S. District Judge Larry McKinney barred Plowman from arguing entrapment. Plowman appealed after he was convicted in September 2011 and sentenced two months later to just over three years in prison.

A three-judge panel with the 7th Circuit affirmed last week.

"Entrapment is usually an issue for a jury, but it can be addressed as a matter of law before trial if the defendant is unable to provide sufficient evidence that a rational jury could infer that the defendant had been entrapped," Judge Daniel Manion wrote for the court.

"The transcripts overwhelmingly show that Plowman was not entrapped," the judge added.

Because of the small increment of the bribe, the court could not label it as an inducement, according to the ruling.

Plowman also failed to show that the undercover agent misled him into thinking that he was performing a legal business service.

Because Plowman said the money would be used to "schmooze" other public officials and "put some in [his] pocket," the transaction was clearly not just for "consulting" work, the court found.

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