Thursday, October 10, 2013

Did Kwame Kilpatrick Bankrupt Detroit?

One of my favorite movies is "Black Ceasar". It's a 70's era blaxploitation film starring Fred Williamson as Tommy Gibbs. A cool, sharp gangster who ran the Harlem underworld with an iron fist. He was loved, and feared equally, and he always beat "the man" at the end of the movie. Was he a stereotypical African-American villain, complete with big cars, fancy clothes, and a lavish lifestyle? Yes. Did he pretend to be anything more? No. He wasn't a gangster who masqueraded as a Mayor, or a Mayor who led a double life as the Godfather. He was never confused about who he was, or confused anyone else about who he was.

More than 30 convicted public officials and business people pumped tens of millions of dollars out of Detroit in the six years and eight months Kwame Kilpatrick was mayor.

Prosecutors accused Kilpatrick and his favorite contractor Bobby Ferguson of scaring off investors and exacerbating the city's financial struggle.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds said court testimony established that hey "bullied" and "muscled" their way to vast amounts money and power.

"Their serious impact on the morale of the city of Detroit cannot be overstated," she said.

But they can't be blamed for Detroit's $18 billion bankruptcy, Edwards said before sentencing Kilpatrick to 28 years and Ferguson to 21 years in federal prison last week, seven months after hewas convicted of public corruption in federal court.

It marks the end to another chapter in the saga of Kilpatrick, who was elected mayor of Detroit at the young age of 31. Once mentioned as a possible candidate for president later in life, Detroit's "hip-hop mayor," now 43, is generally credited as one of America's worst mayoral leaders of the past decade.

The former Detroit mayor's sentencing recommendation called for at least 28 years to life for kilpatrick, who prosecutors say robbed the City of Detroit of millions through criminal enterprises when it was at its most desperate. It's "equal to the longest sentence" for corruption ever handed down to a public official, said U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade after the sentencing was announced.

Judge Edmunds, also said that it was important to look at the entire history of the defendant, noting that Kilpatrick's numerous convictions regarding criminal enterprise were drawn from crimes committed during his entire six-year tenure as Detroit mayor, and possibly even during his time in the Michigan Legislature. It was also important to consider the enormity of the investigation -Edmunds said 34 other people have been convicted for crimes pertaining to Kilpatrick.

"Kwame Kilpatrick was entrusted by the citizens of Detroit to guide their city through one of its most challenging periods," the prosecution's memo read. "The city desperately needed resolute leadership. Instead it got a mayor looking to cash in on his office through graft, extortion and self-dealing."

Kilpatrick was found guilty on 24 counts related to bid-rigging, extortion and bribery in his latest trial, which ended in March. He has already been jailed three times.

In court on Thursday, Kilpatrick brieflyaddressed the crowd before the sentence was read, choking up as he struggled to speak. "I respectfully ask for a fair sentence, based on what happened here." he said, according some media outlets. "I respect the jury's verdict ... I think your honor knows that I disagree with it."

He also said his wife, Carlita, and their children were not in attendance.

"One thing is certain," Edmunds told the courtroom, "It was the citizens of Detroit who suffered."

Government officials say Kilpatrick and his partner Bobby Ferguson ran a "criminal enterprise" out of Detroit's City Hall, with Ferguson obtaining at least $76 million in contracts through extortion. Prosecutors say Kilpatrick used the mayor's office to steer $127 million in contracts to Ferguson, a contractor and head of Ferguson Enterprises. Ferguson was convicted by a jury of nine out of 11 counts he faced during trial. He was sentenced to 21 years in prison.


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