Kwame Kilpatrick, Former Detroit Mayor, Convicted Of Racketeering, Extortion & Other Federal Charges

9:46 AM, Mar 11, 2013   |    comments
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Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick makes his way March 11 to federal court in Detroit. He was found guilty on multiple counts of extortion, several charges of mail fraud, wire fraud and for filing false taxes.(Photo: Regina H. Boone, Detroit Free Press)
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  • Detroit, MI -- Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his longtime friend were convicted Monday of racketeering and extortion, marking an end to a more than decadelong public corruption investigation.

    Kilpatrick was convicted on 24 of 30 counts, including five counts of extortion, racketeering, bribery and several mail, wire and tax fraud charges. On three counts he was found not guilty and on three there was no verdict reached.

    The convictions ensure a return to prison for a man once among the nation's youngest big-city leaders.

    Kilpatrick's contractor buddy, Bobby Ferguson, was found guilty on nine of 11 counts, including racketeering and several counts of extortion. He was found not guilty on one count and there was no verdict on another.

    The ex-mayor's father, Bernard Kilpatrick, was convicted on one count of filing a false tax return, but jurors acquitted him attempted extortion and another tax charge and had no verdict on a racketeering charge.

    U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds said the jury reached unanimous agreement Friday on 40 of the 45 counts in the five-month trial that portrayed Kwame Kilpatrick as a greedy politician who took bribes, fixed contracts and lived far beyond his salary. But they wanted a chance to reflect further over the weekend.

    Prosecutors want all three men to be detained, a request that Edmunds will address at a 1:30 p.m. hearing today.

    Prosecutors said Kwame 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 Ferguson's excavating company was awarded millions in work from the water department.

    The verdict is another defeat for the man who left office in 2008 amid an unrelated scandal involving sexually explicit text messages and an affair with an aide.

    Business owners said they were forced to hire Ferguson as a subcontractor or risk losing city contracts. Separately, fundraiser Emma Bell said she gave Kwame 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 Kwame Kilpatrick spent $840,000 beyond his mayoral salary.

    The former mayor faced 30 counts, including racketeering, extortion, bribery, mail and wire fraud, tax evasion and filing false taxes. Ferguson faced 11 counts, including racketeering, extortion and bribery.

    His father, Bernard Kilpatrick, is faced four counts: one racketeering, one extortion, and two filing false tax returns.

    If convicted, each defendant could spend up to 20 years in prison.

    The verdict was reached following a five-month-long trial that included 80 government witnesses, scores of financial documents, text messages and secret audio and video recordings.

    The Kilpatricks were accused of, among other things, shaking down contractors and rigging bids to help steer lucrative contracts to Ferguson. Prosecutors said the philosophy of the enterprise was simple: If you wanted work in the city of Detroit, you either had to hire Ferguson, or in some cases, hire the mayor's father as a consultant.

    The jury also heard plenty about Kilpatrick's lavish lifestyle and his nonprofit Kilpatrick Civic Fund, which the government said Kilpatrick used as a personal piggy bank. The fund was meant for voter education and youth, but Kilpatrick used it for everything from yoga lessons and vacation getaways to college tuition for his relatives and spy equipment, prosecutors said.

    Several businessmen also testified that they lavished Kilpatrick with vacations, custom-made suits and jewelry because they wanted to keep him happy, and they needed help with city deals.

    All three men have vigorously denied the charges, saying they never demanded anything of anyone and were committed to helping minority businesses grow.

    Kilpatrick, who now lives near Dallas, declined to testify. He has long denied any wrongdoing, and defense lawyer James Thomas told jurors that Kilpatrick often was showered with cash gifts from city workers and political supporters during holidays and birthdays.

    Kilpatrick, 42, was elected as mayor 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 because of her son's troubles.

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