by Corey Williams
DETROIT (AP) – Kwame Kilpatrick spent his first night in prison after the former Detroit mayor known for his exceptional speaking skills failed to persuade a judge to show him compassion and send him home to his family.
|SENTENCED—Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is placed in handcuffs at his sentencing hearing in Detroit, May 25.
All Kilpatrick’s swagger and professions of love for family, God and the city did not sway Wayne County Circuit Court Judge David Groner. The judge sentenced Kilpatrick to up to five years in prison Tuesday for violating his probation stemming from his conviction for lying under oath about an affair with his chief of staff.
Kilpatrick, 39, asked Groner to show him compassion during the hearing, but Groner said “that ship has sailed.”
Kilpatrick was led away in handcuffs and taken to prison, even as his attorney vowed to appeal and questioned how Kilpatrick would pay the remaining $860,000 in restitution he owes the city. Kilpatrick was being held at the Charles Egeler Reception and Guidance Center, the state’s prison system’s intake center, where inmates undergo psychological and medical screening before being sent to other facilities.
At issue during Tuesday’s hearing was the $1 million Kilpatrick was ordered to pay after pleading guilty in 2008 to obstruction of justice. Groner ruled last month that Kilpatrick failed to report all of his assets and meet other conditions of his probation.
The former mayor’s rehabilitation “clearly … has failed,” Groner said before announcing his sentence.
“Frankly, your continued attempt to cast yourself as the victim, your lack of forthrightness, your lack of contriteness and your lack of humility serve to affirm that you have not learned your lesson,” the judge said.
The criticism was some of the harshest leveled at the one-time hip-hop mayor and darling of Michigan’s Democratic Party, who early on in his political career displayed the bravado and eloquence to talk his way out of politically thorny situations.
Brash and arrogant, Kilpatrick was criticized during his first term for improperly using city credit cards to pay pricey restaurant tabs. It was later revealed that his wife used a city-leased vehicle for her personal use. Each time, he asked for his constituents’ forgiveness, and he came from behind to win re-election in 2005.
But his political fortunes soured when Kilpatrick testified in a whistle-blower lawsuit trial that he was not romantically involved with his chief of staff. Text messages between the two later showed he was lying.
Before sentencing Kilpatrick to one-and-a-half to five years in prison, including 120 days for time served, Groner gave the former mayor one last chance to plea for leniency.
Dressed in a dark, custom-fit suit, Kilpatrick stood, paused several moments then cleared his throat as the courtroom packed with the news media, supporters and the curious hushed to listen.
“It’s hard to speak to some of the things that have been said about me,” he said. “Let me just start by saying, I’m a human being; a real live flesh and blood person. And often times when I read about myself, read about that person … I’m extraordinarily confused because it’s not me.”
Over the next 15 minutes, Kilpatrick recounted how he fell in love with his wife, Carlita, and later cheated on her; failed as mayor; admitted to the text message scandal, which led to perjury charges and forced him from office; and spent 99 days in jail after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice charges that stemmed from the scandal.
Kilpatrick described how, after joining his family in an affluent Dallas suburb, he lavished them with gifts “trying to make everything perfect.” The problem was that the money spent on plastic surgery for his wife, presents and high living should have been used to help pay what he owed Detroit.
“I want to go home your honor, where I belong,” Kilpatrick told Groner.
Assistant Prosecutor Athina Siringas said the former mayor’s plea for mercy was “vintage Kwame Kilpatrick. The reality of the situation is totally different. He accepts no responsibility for his own behavior.”
Kilpatrick’s attorney, Michael Alan Schwartz, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the sentence. Schwartz has 42 days to appeal.
“Some people feel he should have outside contrition. I guess the best thing to do is to come out in sackcloth and ashes,” said Schwartz, defending Kilpatrick’s desire for extravagance. “He didn’t go out and live in a certain lifestyle. Is that what he’s being put into prison for? Because he didn’t do all those things?”
Schwartz said he would request an emergency stay from the Michigan Court of Appeals to free Kilpatrick pending a decision by the court.
The lawyer told WWJ-AM Wednesday that the appeal would be partly based on Groner’s statement that he treated Kilpatrick in a different manner to how he dealt with other defendants.
Groner found Kilpatrick guilty of violating his probation last month after prosecutors revealed he had funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into his wife’s bank accounts and failed to disclose $240,000 in loans from Compuware Chair Peter Karmanos and other prominent businessmen.
About $140,000 has been paid toward restitution since Kilpatrick’s 2009 release from jail, with $3,000 each month coming from his $120,000 annual salesman salary at Covisint in Dallas.
But Covisint’s Detroit-based parent company, Compuware Corp., said Tuesday that it was firing Kilpatrick and he will be off the payroll by the end of the month.
(Associated Press writers Ed White and Nicquel Terry contributed to this report.)