DETROIT ? It was time to pay the piper for Detroit’s former “hiphop” mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick, as a federal judge sentenced the once-heralded rising star to 28 years in prison for corruption that turned city hall into a pay-for-play bonanza.
In issuing the sentence, U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds also ordered Kilpatrick to pay $100 for each count immediately ? a total of $2,400. Because he's now broke, Edmunds waived his fines, citing his "lack of resources." A total restitution amount has yet to be determined.
In sentencing Kilpatrick to the staggering amount of time recommended by prosecutors, Edmunds did show compassion by saying she will recommend the disgraced pol serve his prison sentence in Texas, where his family now lives. Kilpatrick has the right to appeal within 14 days.
It goes without saying that, while Kilpatrick expressed remorse before the sentence was handed down, he categorically denied stealing money from the taxpayers — being perhaps the only man on Earth who really believes it, too.
“I just want people to know that I am incredibly remorseful for the conditions of the city and any role, any part I played in it," he said. "The government talked about stealing from the city. Wow ...I've never done that, your Honor."
The sentence was the final outcome of a five month-long trial and its subsequent two dozen convictions, ranging from bribery to extortion to tax crimes. The government’s assertion, which obviously influenced Edmunds, was that, as the city’s finances become more precarious, the former mayor was lining his pockets — by shaking down contractors and steering work to his buddy, Bobby Ferguson, who earned millions in city work. In addition, Kilpatrick was convicted of turning a not-for-profit fund designed to help the city’s poor into a personal slush fund, as the evidence laid out at trial demonstrated.
"He created a 'pay-to-play' system for the provision of city goods and services, which compromised vast swaths of city government, including the water and sewer system, the convention center, the pension system, casino developments and recreation centers," prosecutors said in a court filing last week." City government essentially became up for grabs for the right price."
After months of denials involving a separate case against him, alleging perjury in connection to sexually explicit texts involving his then-chief of staff, Christine Beatty, Kilpatrick resigned from office in disgrace, in 2008.
The timing of the political implosion coincided with the deterioration of the domestic auto industry and the wider financial crisis that nearly took down the American economy. Prosecutors successfully tied Kilpatrick’s illegality to both the city’s financial ruin as well as the auto industry’s collapse, stating that Kilpatrick’s crimes exacerbated Detroit’s fiscal crisis.
Subsequently, the city is now in the control of a state-appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, who took Detroit into Chapter 9 bankruptcy last summer as a last-ditch effort to fix billions of dollars in debt.
"Kilpatrick is not the main culprit of the city's historic bankruptcy, which is the result of larger social and economic forces at work for decades. But his corrupt administration exacerbated the crisis," prosecutors said.
Defense attorneys protested the linking of facts, calling it "cheap shot," pointing out that Kilpatrick had already resigned from office five years beforehand. The government's attempt to roll the city of Detroit's2013 bankruptcy filing into the... case oversimplifies the complex problems that Detroit has faced for more than five decades," defense attorneys Harold Gurewitz and Margaret Raben wrote.
In looking for balance, Kilpatrick attornies requested that court give weight to deeds Kilpatrick did that brought benefit to the city, including the 2006 Super Bowl and 2005 baseball All-Star Game in Detroit, as well as 75 new downtown businesses.
As a side issue, agents who scrubbed the city’s financial records said Kilpatrick spent $840,000 beyond his salary during his time as mayor.