Politics

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.


March 11, 2013, 10:40 AM by  Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel and Bill McGraw

A U.S. District Court jury found Kwame Kilpatrick guilty on numerous public corruption charges Monday, including a racketeering count that said he used the office of the mayor of Detroit to enrich himself and his friend, Bobby Ferguson.

Ferguson was also found guilty of numerous charges, including racketeering.

 Kilpatrick's father, Bernard Kilpatrick, was convicted on one count of filing a false tax return.

The jury of six whites, five blacks and one Hispanic deliberated for 14 days before finding Kilpatrick and Ferguson guilty on most counts in the indictment. Beyond the racketeering charge, they also found them guilty of conspiracy, extortion, mail fraud and bribery. Kilpatrick was also convicted of income tax charges. The jury could not reach a verdict on the father's involvement in the racketeering conspiracy. 

Jury members, in answering questions from reporters after the verdict, mostly confined their comments to how they had simply decided the case on the evidence. One juror, though, an African American woman who said she voted for Kilpatrick both times he ran for mayor, said: "I saw a lot that really, really, turned my stomach."

The jury found that Kilpatrick and Ferguson rigged bids and extorted money from contractors while Kilpatrick was mayor.

The jury found Kwame Kilpatrick guilty on 24 of 30 counts. The jury acquitted him on three counts and were deadlocked on three others. The jury convicted Bobby Ferguson on 9 of 11 counts and Bernard Kilpatrick on one of four counts. Bernard Kilpatrick faced a racketeering charge but the jury deadlocked on that one.  Most of counts against Kwame Kilpatrick and Ferguson carry a maximum penalty of 10 to 20 years. His father, who was convicted of filing a false tax return, faces up to three years in prison.

The courtroom was packed with a handful of friends of the defendants, reporters and and federal officials, including Robert D. Foley III, head of the Detroit FBI, and U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade.  Kilpatrick looked visibly annoyed while some of the guilty verdicts were announced by the judge, and shook his head from side to side.

After the judge read the verdict and the jury had left the courtroom, Bernard Kilpatrick walked over to his son and the two hugged as Bernard sobbed, his head on Kwame's shoulder. Kwame Kilpatrick was overheard saying, "It's o.k., pop."

 Before a detention hearing began in the afternoon,  Kilpatrick was in the courtroom talking to his mother Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, smiling at times.   The judge ruled that Kilpatrick and Ferguson should go off to prison pending their sentencing. They were handcuffed in the courtroom after the proceedings.  As Kilpatrick was exiting the courtroom, he said, according to the Detroit News:  "No doubt, no fear."

After the verdict was read, Mayor Dave Bing issued a statement:

“I am pleased that this long trial has ended and we can finally put this negative chapter in Detroit’s history behind us.  It is time for all of us to move forward with a renewed commitment to transparency and high ethical standards in our City government.”

Mike Rataj, one of the attorneys for Ferguson, said he was surprised by the verdict and thought the defense had raised signficant questions about the charges.

During the jury press conference,  defense attorneys and prosecutors watched on closed circuit televison. One juror said that the trial did not involve victimless crimes. Jurors did not disclose their names. One said deliberations got heated at times.

The defendants did not want to talk after they left the courthouse.

Ferguson came out of the courthouse first and walked across the street and into the Penobscot Building.

The journalists chased him. A local man shouted: "Thank you god!" and "That's what you get!"

Kwame came out of the courthouse next and waited a few moments on the courthouse steps for a white Buick with a license plate that said "RUB" to arrive and whisk him away.

Bernard came out of the courthouse next.

The verdict capped a five-month trial that laid bare the shady operations of city hall under Kwame Kilpatrick, now 42, and was resounding victory for the U.S. Attorney's Office, FBI and IRS.

The government had alleged that Kilpatrick, his dad Bernard Kilpatrick and close friend Bobby Ferguson ran a criminal enterprise out of city hall that shook down contractors for gift and bribes. The feds claimed Ferguson gave Kilpatrick kickbacks.

Kilpatrick and his father also faced tax fraud charges. Authorities presented evidence in court showing that Kwame Kilpatrick deposited more than $500,000 in cash in bank accounts while he was mayor from 2002 to 2008, and that he spent $840,000 more than he officially earned.

Prosecutors insisted the money came from bribes and kickbacks and from donations to the Kilpatrick Civic fund. Kilpatrick’s attorney James Thomas argued that the cash came from gifts from supporters.

Over the five months, the feds paraded to the stand a host of contractors who testified that they gave cash and gifts. Some said they unwillingly subcontracted excavation work to  Bobby Ferguson  so they could get contracts. The feds alleged that some ended up paying Ferguson for no work just to keep or land contracts.

Kilpatrick faced 30 counts. Ferguson was charged with 11 counts and Bernard Kilpatrick faced four counts. Victor Mercado, the ex-head of the Detroit water department, was the fourth defendant in the trial. But halfway through, he pulled the plug and pleaded guilty.

The long, drawn out drama included classic Shaksepearean acts of betrayal by some of the government’s star witnesses. Derrick Miller, who had known Kilpatrick since 9th grade, and had been in his city hall inner circle, testified that he delivered kickbacks and bribes to Kilpatrick.

Emma Bell, Kilpatrick’s chief fundraiser, who described Kilpatrick as being like a son, testified that she kicked back to Kilpatrick about $250,000 in donations she raised for various funds including the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.

But the defense shot back, saying that Miller was offering lies on the witness stand so that he could get a bigger break when he’s sentenced for taking bribes and kickbacks

The defense was not so kind to Bell as well, portraying her as an alcoholic and degenerate gambler who lied about giving money to Kilpatrick.

Staffer Lauren Ann Davies contributed to this report.



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