Christy Strawser, CBS Detroit, October 10, 2013
Once a popular young politician, disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was ordered to spend 28 years behind bars on his convictions for racketeering, bribery, extortion and tax crimes.
“I think everyone here understands Mr. Kilpatrick was convicted of running a criminal enterprise,” Judge Nancy Edmunds said, adding the enterprise started while he was still in the state House of Representatives and continued through all six years he was in the mayor’s office. Edmunds said the scheme to steer contracts to pal Bobby Ferguson made projects more costly for a city that couldn’t afford it and drove contractors out of business.
The judge laid bare the accusations against Kilpatrick of fake jobs for family and friends, lavish parties, pay to play schemes, and secret affairs, saying he “has generally shown little remorse” for a bevy of infractions. She said it was sad he chose to “waste his talent on personal enrichment and aggrandizement,” when he had so many talents that could have helped the city.
Edmunds called it “devastating corruption” that bred a corrosive environment, cynicism and apathy among people who could have been convinced to boost Detroit. “We lost transparency, we lost accountability,” Edmunds said, adding her sentence was meant to show the public demands both.
“That way of doing government is over, it’s done,” she said.
Kilpatrick spoke eloquently in his own defense immediately before the sentence was handed down, giving a lengthy talk full of apologies and self-reflection in a subdued voice that riveted the packed courtroom and overflow room.
“I just humbly and respectfully ask for a fair sentence … I respect the jury’s verdict. I think your honor knows I have disagreed in terms of the specific things I was found guilty on, but I respect the verdict and I also respect the American justice system,” he said.
Kilpatrick went on to say “men, especially in the African American community” know they’re not supposed to cry or “bow down,” describing what he projected as “false confidence” that was misread as “arrogance.”
“I really, really, really messed up,” he said, adding he takes full responsibility for all his actions, including lying about the affair with former chief of staff Christine Beatty. He said he initially felt his actions were private, but finally “got it,” saying he knows he broke the trust of the public. When he finally “got it,” he said he started enjoying life for the first time while in Texas with his wife and three sons.
And then he said he felt bad about how happy he was while Detroit was mired in economic misery.
“I apologize to the citizens of this city for abandoning you and to leave you like I did,” Kilpatrick said.
Kilpatrick ended his unusually humble speech by saying he was “incredibly remorseful.”
The judge was clearly unmoved. She said his remarks “showed more awareness,” though his actions after he left Detroit didn’t inspire confidence in his ability to reform.
The prosecutor told a different story, urging the judge to impose the 28-year maximum. “There has been no acceptance of any responsibility,” the prosecutor said, adding it’s “not about the media … it’s about him … All the people in the city he let down and exploited.”
Appearing downcast and thinner, with a shaggy beard, Kilpatrick was uncuffed while the attorneys spoke. Contrary to his usually jocular demeanor, Kilpatrick stayed somber even while chatting with attorneys and supporters during court breaks.
Kilpatrick was found guilty of shaking down contractors, ensuring that his friend, Bobby Ferguson, got millions in city work and turning a nonprofit fund to help struggling Detroiters into a personal slush fund, according to evidence at his five-month trial.
Federal prosecutors are recommending Kilpatrick serve at least 28 years in prison, while defense attorneys are hoping the sentence doesn’t exceed 15 years. The U.S. Attorney in Detroit also wants Kilpatrick and co-defendant Ferguson to pay $9.6 million in restitution.
It’s likely to be one of the longer sentences in recent cases of public corruption, the result of two dozen convictions that range from bribery to extortion to tax crimes.