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October 11, 2013

Record-long political corruption sentence for former mayor of Detroit

As reported in this New York Times article, headlined "Kwame M. Kilpatrick, Former Detroit Mayor, Sentenced to 28 Years in Corruption Case," a remarkable case of political corruption culminated yesterday in a remarkable federal sentence.  Here are excerpts from the press account of the sentencing:

Kwame M. Kilpatrick, the former mayor of Detroit, stood before a federal judge on Thursday and apologized for putting the people of his city through a corruption scandal so vast that prosecutors say it helped accelerate Detroit’s march toward bankruptcy. “They’re hurting,” Mr. Kilpatrick said. “A great deal of that hurt I accept full responsibility for.”

They were solemn words from the formerly boisterous figure, a bear of a man at 6 feet 4 inches who many believed would lead Detroit out of its long economic downturn. But on Thursday he stood slouched, wearing a tan prison uniform instead of the flashy suits he once favored.  Court officers replaced the entourage of bodyguards that used to follow him around. The diamond that once studded his ear, an emblem of his reputation as the “hip-hop mayor,” was gone.

Then, declaring an end to the bribery and thieving that marked the Kilpatrick administration, Judge Nancy G. Edmunds of United States District Court imposed the sentence prosecutors had sought: 28 years in prison.

Mr. Kilpatrick, 43, was convicted in March of two dozen counts that included charges of racketeering and extortion, adding his name to a list of at least 18 city officials who have been convicted of corruption during his tenure. His punishment ranks among the harshest major state and local public corruption cases. Lawyers for Mr. Kilpatrick said that they intend to file an appeal of the convictions and sentence.

The hearing came at a sobering moment for the city he once led, which is now remaking itself in bankruptcy court as residents wrestle over whom to blame for the fiscal mess. For Detroiters, Mr. Kilpatrick’s meteoric fall — from potential savior of a struggling city to prison-bound symbol of financial mismanagement — may be the closest they will get to holding past leaders accountable for decades of disappointment and poor fiscal decisions....

In 2008, Mr. Kilpatrick resigned after he lied under oath during a police whistle-blower lawsuit and approved an $8.4 million settlement to try to cover it up. After pleading guilty to charges of obstruction of justice, Mr. Kilpatrick served four months in jail and was ordered to pay $1 million to the city. He was soon behind bars again for hiding assets from the court and telling a judge that he could afford to pay only $6 a month in restitution.

The former mayor and Bobby W. Ferguson, a city contractor and a friend, were indicted in 2010 on sweeping federal corruption charges. All told, prosecutors contend that Mr. Ferguson received $73 million worth of city contracts as a result of an extortion scheme that involved Mr. Kilpatrick, netting $9.6 million in illegal profit. Mr. Ferguson was convicted of nine counts and will be sentenced on Friday. “The amount of crime, it was astonishing and it had a huge impact on this city,” Mark Chutkow, one of the prosecutors, said as he left the courthouse on Thursday.

Mr. Kilpatrick’s lawyer, Harold Z. Gurewitz, who pushed for a sentence of no more than 15 years, argued in court that Mr. Kilpatrick was being unfairly targeted as a scapegoat for Detroit’s insolvency, with people trying to “send him out with the sins of the city over the last 50 years.” The sentence, he said in an interview later, was tougher than necessary and stiffer than some people get for violent crimes.

Among some of the highest penalties for recent public corruption convictions, James C. Dimora, former commissioner of Cuyahoga County in Ohio, was sentenced last year to 28 years in prison for racketeering and bribery. A year before, Rod R. Blagojevich, former governor of Illinois, was sentenced to 14 years in prison for convictions that included trying to sell the Senate seat President Obama left open when he went to the White House.

In her ruling on Thursday, Judge Edmunds said her decision was another strong warning to elected officials. “That way of business is over,” she said. “We’re done. We’re moving forward.”

October 11, 2013 at 07:57 AM | Permalink


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The familiar refrain that [insert corrupt political figure or white collar criminal here] received "even a worse sentence than a violent criminal" is getting tiring.

Madoff did not personally leave any people in his basement to starve. But when he stole millions from charities that prevent starvation and famine in impoverished African countries, the net result was the same.

Kilpatrick was part of a scheme that set in motion--or at least accelerated--a collapse of society that will ultimately lead to higher drug use, unemployment, homelessness, domestic violence, and suicide. He did not himself peddle meth, slap someone's girlfriend, or kill people who believed there was no other way out--but he might as well have.

As far as I'm concerned, good riddance.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Oct 11, 2013 8:55:19 AM

Res ipsa nails it.

I can only wait for the refrain that Mayor Kilpatrick was really Mother Theresa with a few extra pounds, that he "made some mistakes" for which he is "truly sorry," and that he was selected for "persecution" only because Eric Holder's DOJ is brimming with Bull Connor types. Plus, 28 years fails the criteria of 3553(a), and is going to cost taxpayers zillions, so why not sentence him to 90 days to be followed by six months of home-based "greed counseling"?

Hey, look, I don't make this stuff up. I'm just repeating what I hear time after time from defense lawyers, who ceaselessly find other people to blame, never the saintly (if somewhat portly) client.

If you think that litany is silly and insults anyone with a drop of intelligence, well, maybe you should ask defense lawyers to come up with a spiel that has at least a minimal connection to reality. Good luck with that one!

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 11, 2013 9:26:23 AM

“…the flashy suits he once favored ..the entourage of bodyguards..[t]he diamond that once studded his ear..
his reputation as the “hip-hop mayor,”
“he lied under oath during a police whistle-blower lawsuit and approved an $8.4 million settlement
to try to cover it up.”

“behind bars again for hiding assets from the court”
“pleading guilty to charges of obstruction of justice”
“the bribery and thieving that marked the Kilpatrick administration”
“so vast that prosecutors say it helped accelerate Detroit’s march toward bankruptcy”
“convicted in March of two dozen counts that included charges of racketeering and extortion”

“ordered to pay $1 million to the city. and telling a judge that
he could afford to pay only $6 a month in restitution

-- I thought Conservative Republican Tea-Party types were stingy.
-- {Oh yeah, but the Liberal Kwame was actually very generous -- with tax-payer $$.}

Posted by: Adamakis | Oct 11, 2013 10:45:56 AM

Bill Otis,

Actually the unaffordability of it is a large part of why I so strongly favor execution for so many offenses. Both the unaffordability of the crime and the unaffordability of housing the criminals once caught.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 11, 2013 12:02:37 PM

Soronel --

Partly on account of his corruption, Detroit needs some serious rebuilding of its infrastructure. Mayor Kilpatrick can earn his keep by manual labor on construction jobs, ten hours a day, six days a week.

He wants to live like a king off stolen money? Fine. He can now live like some of the trusting people he stole it from.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 11, 2013 3:45:45 PM

Even with supervision I would not trust him to do a good enough job to make it worth doing, far better to just take him out behind the courthouse and put a bullet through the back of his skull.

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Oct 11, 2013 4:32:48 PM

When you stop and think about it, this thug probably deserves life. Does anyone think that Republicans got a fair shot at city contracts? Nope. So much for the First Amendment.

Of course, 'rats and their union buddies have a similar racket--wanna work for the state or city, ya gotta pay some union fatcat and his cronies.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 11, 2013 10:59:20 PM

good riddance to the little traitor. one down! two million more to go!

Lock up all politicians!

Posted by: rodsmith | Oct 12, 2013 3:02:16 AM

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