After a five-month trial, former Detroit Mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick’s corruption case came to a close today. Kilpatrick, once viewed as a rising star in the Democratic Party, was found guilty of 24 of the 30 charges leveled against him. The charges include racketeering, extortion, and bribery, each of which carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
The convictions conclude a trial in which prosecutors accused Mr. Kilpatrick of enriching himself through bid-rigging schemes and financial kickbacks while in office. According to NBC, Kilpatrick steered as much as $83 million in public funds to contractor and friend Bobby Ferguson in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks. Ferguson was convicted of racketeering today as well. Kilpatrick’s attorney argued that Mr. Kilpatrick only steered the work to Ferguson because he knew he would hire Detroit residents to complete the work.
This is not Kilpatrick’s first run-in with the law. In 2008, Kilpatrick spent three months in jail after being accused of lying in a civil trial. In the trial, Kilpatrick denied having an affair with his former chief of staff and conspiring with her to fire the deputy police chief. Kilpatrick spent an additional year in jail for violating his terms of probation from this conviction.
In his closing statement last month, prosecuting attorney R. Michael Bullotta argued that the Kilpatrick administration’s enrichment formula was “No deal without me.”
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“That was their mantra, those were there words, they had to get a piece” Mr. Bullotta said. Kilpatrick also ensured that city contractors hired his father, Bernard, as a consultant for projects, according to the Michigan Free Press. If a company refused to hire Kilpatrick’s father, Kilpatrick would simply grant the project to a company that would.
In addition to rigging city contract bids, Kilpatrick was convicted of using funds from his charity, the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, on personal expenses. Financial documents show Kilpatrick using money from the charity on golf equipment, yoga, and summer camps for his children.
For Detroit residents, Kilpatrick’s downfall is the latest misfortune in the city's continued economic and political decline. One juror who had twice voted for Kilpatrick in elections remarked that “Sitting on this trial for the last six months, I really, really saw a lot that turned my stomach.”
Current Detroit mayor Dave Bing was pleased to see the trial conclude, saying “we can finally put this negative chapter in Detroit’s history behind us.”
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“It is time for all of us to move forward with a renewed commitment to transparency and high ethical standards in our City government,” Bing said.
A judge set a hearing for later Monday that will determine whether Kirkpatrick is detained immediately or whether he will be released until his sentencing.