Kwame Kilpatrick, 42, once showed promise as a rising star in the Democratic Party. At age 31, he was elected Mayor of Detroit. Things started to go wrong when Kilpatrick was accused of cronyism, nepotism and lavish spending. The final verdict is in after Kilpatrick joined two other defendants, his father and a contractor friend in a five-month long trial. On Monday, a U.S. District Court jury found Kilpatrick guilty of federal racketeering, taking bribes, rigging contracts and living beyond his means. The IRS said he spent $840,000 more than his mayoral salary, according to a March 11 ABC News article.
Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick, was convicted of submitting a false tax return. His friend, contractor Bobby Ferguson was convicted of racketeering and other charges. His mother is former congressional representative Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick. She was not charged with any crimes but lost her post because of her son’s extensive wrongdoing and negative public image.
According to a March 11 article in the Chicago Tribune, Kilpatrick was charged with extortion, racketeering, mail and wire fraud, bribery and several tax charges. The jury found him guilty of 33 counts of racketeering under the RICO statute, plus extortion and bribery. The most serious charges carry a possible maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
In the case of Bobby Ferguson's excavating company, Kilpatrick received kickbacks after the company took on millions for extensive work with the water department. Business owners said they were forced to hire Ferguson as a subcontractor if they wanted city contracts. Ferguson ended up with $84 million in contracts.
In separate criminal cases, fundraiser Emma Bell slipped $200,000 in political fundraising cash to Kilpatrick. His high-ranking aide, Derick Bell, said he was the “middle man” for bribes that made their way into Kilpatrick’s pockets.
Kilpatrick took in cash gifts from city workers and political supporters during holidays and birthdays. He looted a nonprofit fund he created to help distressed Detroit residents, using the money for yoga lessons, camps for his children, golf clubs and travel.
The trial started last September with U.S. District Court before Judge Nancy Edmunds presiding. The jury went into deliberations on Feb.19 and deliberated for twelve days.
Kilpatrick committed other crimes to build his reputation for extensive corruption. In one case, he sent sexually explicit text messages and had an extramarital affair with his chief of staff. In that case, he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for failing to report $1 million in assets and spent a year in prison.
Detroit was recently declared a financial disaster and faces an uncertain future with a declining population and an appointed emergency manager in charge.