HEADED TO PRISON—-Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick leaves federal court after being convicted March 11, in Detroit, of corruption charges, ensuring a return to prison for a man once among the nation’s youngest big-city leaders. (AP Photo/Detroit News, David Coates)
by Ed White
Associated Press Writer
DETROIT (AP) — Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted Monday of corruption charges and then sent to jail to await his prison sentence in yet another dramatic setback for a man who once was among the nation’s youngest big-city leaders.
Jurors convicted Kilpatrick of a raft of crimes, including racketeering conspiracy, which carries a maximum punishment of 20 years behind bars. He was portrayed during a five-month trial as an unscrupulous politician who took bribes, rigged contracts and lived far beyond his means while in office until fall 2008.
Kilpatrick wore a surprised, puzzled look at times as U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds read the jury’s verdict: guilty of 24 charges, not guilty on three and no consensus on three more. Kilpatrick declined to speak to reporters as he left the courthouse.
Four hours later, he was handcuffed and led to jail after prosecutors asked the judge to revoke his bond. Edmunds said it was a “close call” but agreed that the scale under federal law tipped in favor of the government.
Prosecutors said Kilpatrick ran a “private profit machine” out of Detroit’s City Hall. The government presented evidence to show he got a share of the spoils after ensuring that Bobby Ferguson’s excavating company was awarded millions in work from the water department.
Business owners said they were forced to hire Ferguson as a subcontractor or risk losing city contracts. Separately, fundraiser Emma Bell said she gave Kilpatrick more than $200,000 as his personal cut of political donations, pulling cash from her bra during private meetings. A high-ranking aide, Derrick Miller, told jurors that he often was the middle man, passing bribes from others.
Internal Revenue Service agents said Kilpatrick spent $840,000 beyond his mayoral salary.
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade hailed the verdict and said Kilpatrick was “grabbing money from the citizens he was elected to serve.”
The names of jurors were not released by the court, although 11 agreed to speak to reporters. They declined to give their names.
“I saw a lot that really, really turned my stomach,” said a female juror, a Detroit resident who had voted twice for Kilpatrick when he ran for mayor. “I couldn’t believe this type of thing was going on.”
Ferguson, Kilpatrick’s pal, also was convicted of racketeering conspiracy. The jury could not reach a verdict on the same charge for Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick, but convicted him of submitting a false tax return.
After the verdict, the Kilpatricks hugged twice with the son appearing to console his sobbing father.
The trial occurred at a time of extraordinary crisis in Detroit. Population has fallen 25 percent to 700,000 since 2000. Public finances are a mess and are in the red for billions of dollars, mostly future pension obligations. Half of property owners are overdue with their property taxes. Meanwhile, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder could appoint an emergency financial manager in a matter of days, making Detroit the largest city in the country to fail and be taken over by state government
Mayor Dave Bing said the verdict would allow the city to move on from “this negative chapter in Detroit’s history.”
It’s “time for all of us to move forward with a renewed commitment to transparency and high ethical standards in our city government,” Bing said in a statement.
The judge said the jury finished its work Friday but wanted to go home for the weekend before announcing the results Monday.
“They said they wanted to sleep on it. … I had a sense of what the verdict was,” Edmunds told reporters.
Kwame Kilpatrick, who now lives near Dallas, declined to testify. He has long denied any wrongdoing, and defense attorney James Thomas told jurors that his client often was showered with cash gifts from city workers and political supporters during holidays and birthdays.
The government said Kilpatrick abused the Civic Fund, a nonprofit fund he created to help distressed Detroit residents. There was evidence that it was used for yoga lessons, camps for his kids, golf clubs and travel.
“The scale of corruption was breathtaking,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow said in a closing argument on Feb. 15. “We cannot turn away and ignore the corruption that occurred in this city. It is time for the former mayor and his accomplices to be held accountable for their crimes — it is past time.”
Kilpatrick, 42, was elected in 2001 at age 31. He resigned in 2008 and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a different scandal involving sexually explicit text messages and an extramarital affair with his chief of staff.
The Democrat spent 14 months in prison for violating probation in that case after a judge said he failed to report assets that could be put toward his $1 million restitution to Detroit.
Voters booted his mother, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, from Congress in 2010, partly because of a negative perception of her due to her son’s troubles.
AP reporters Jeff Karoub and Corey Williams contributed to this story.