Thursday, October 10, 2013

Blue State Graft Watch: Former Detroit Mayor Kilpatrick Sentenced to 28 Years

Once billed as 'America's First Hip Hop Mayor', former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was clad in khakis and gave a brief statement to the court as he was sentenced to 28 years of federal prison on Thursday at Detroit's federal courthouse.

Kilpatrick, now 43, became Detroit's youngest mayor ever at age 32. Prosecutors say he used his position to generate enormous personal wealth for himself and those close to him, not to improve the city he claimed to love and grew up in.

While earning an annual salary ranging from $158,000 to $176,000, Kilpatrick used other means to enrich his bank account, federal prosecutors say.

He evaded taxes and spent $554,000 of funds raised by the Kwame Kilpatrick Civic Fund, which operated under the guise of a nonprofit, on campaigns, rental cars, summer camps for his children, debugging equipment, birthday parties, gifts to relatives, travel and a crisis manager after the text message scandal broke.

Prosecutors tabulated $64,000 spent on suits.

"In all, while he was mayor, he spent $540,000 in cash," Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow said during the opening statement of the trial. "This was over and above his salary, his payroll check, and it was not disclosed on his tax returns.

"And this was just a minimal, just the amount that these investigators here were able to readily trace."

Before Kilpatrick resigned in 2008, prosecutors presented evidence and testimony showing that Ferguson recruited Mahlon Cliftan, one of Kilpatrick's "best friends" who stood up in his wedding, to deliver him $90,000 dollars.

Cliftan taped the cash to his abdomen, flew to Chicago and hid the cash in the bag of a vacuum cleaner before delivering it to Kilpatrick and his wife in two installments.

Kilpatrick's former fundraiser, Emma Belle, who said she'd known Kilpatrick since he was a boy and regarded him as a son, earned over $900,000 in commissions collecting donations for Kilpatrick's nonprofit, although about half she kicked back to the mayor, she testified.
Kilpatrick's co-defendant and friend Bobby Ferguson is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday. While in office, Ferguson colluded with Kilpatrick and friends to steer millions of dollars worth of lucrative city public works contracts to Ferguson.

From Day 1, Kilpatrick's tenure as mayor was fraught with official misconduct and corruption. Within a year of Kilpatrick's 2002 swearing-in, reports circulated of Kilpatrick's wife interrupting a wild party with strippers and drugs at the mayor's official residence. On April 2013, one of the strippers who reportedly performed at the mansion was shot and killed in her vehicle with a .40 cal Glock- the same type of gun used by the Detroit Police as their sidearm at the time.

Around the same time, Kilpatrick was carrying on an illicit affair with his chief of staff, Christine Beatty and the two were texting on city-issued phones. By 2008, the Detroit Free Press had obtained nearly 14,000 text messages between Kilpatrick and Beatty. In addition to the extramarital affair, the texts also indicated that Kilpatrick was using city funds to arrange getaways with Beatty and the two had colluded to fire then police chief Gary Brown.

Kilpatrick has also been accused of diverting state grant money to his wife and lost a 2007 civil suit filed by Brown and one of the mayor's former bodyguards. The mayor's office initially dragged his feet on paying the $8.4 settlement but quickly changed his tune when the attorney for the policemen had discovered that Kilpatrick and Beatty perjured themselves. The mayor and attorneys for the city then hastily struck a 'secret' deal in which the sacked police chief and bodyguard would lose up to 33% of their settlement if they ever divulged the secret text messages or the deal itself. Ultimately the Free Press ended up publishing the contents of the incriminating texts.

Earlier this year, Kilpatrick was found guilty on 24 out of 30 federal charges of bribery, racketeering and corruption.

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