Kwame Kilpatrick, clad in a tan, khaki prison outfit, entered the federal courtroom in handcuffs and with a smile Thursday morning. He left about 40 minutes later, escorted in handcuffs back to prison, but with a new court appointed attorney.
Kilpatrick, who was uncuffed during the proceedings, appeared before U.S. District Judge Nancy G. Edmunds to ask to fire attorney James Thomas.
Edmunds agreed and appointed veteran attorney Harold Gurewitz, a former federal prosecutor who had assisted, part time, in Killpatrick defense during trial. Kilpatrick complained that Thomas hadn’t gotten his input in motions and hadn’t represented him well during trial.
“I like Harold,” Kilpatrick said, standing at the podium, Gurewitz and Thomas by his side.
It was Kilpatrick’s first court appearance since being convicted March 11 of 24 public corruption and tax counts in one of the sadder Detroit tales in recent years involving a high-profile figure. He’s been in prison in Milan ever since, awaiting sentencing, just like his co-defendant Bobby Ferguson.
His father Bernard Kilpatrick, who was convicted of tax counts in the trial, sat in the gallery. He is the only one of three defendants free pending sentencing.
Kilpatrick smiled at his dad when entering the eighth-floor courtroom. When he left, he glanced at his father and other supporters and said “Love y’all.” He appeared far more somber than he did when he entered the courtroom escorted by two very serious-looking deputy U.S. marshals.
Kilpatrick, who hopes for mercy at sentencing (he could get at least 15 years), stepped up to the podium and spoke graciously to the judge most of the time.
He thanked her for assuring medical care after slipping while entering a prison-bound van after his conviction two months ago. He thanked her for ordering an MRI scan.
"I appreciate you," he said. "I have two torn quadriceps, a torn tendon, " Kilpatrick said, adding that surgeons will have to drill into his knee.
He said he was terrified about having surgery and going through rehab.
Edmunds said “you’re welcome” but tried to down play her role, saying the Marshals Service and the prison were on top of things. “I’m glad you got the care that you needed,” the judge said.
Kilpatrick spent a good part of the hearing criticizing Thomas, who he tried to fire before trial. Edmunds wouldn’t let him do so then.
He said Thomas didn’t represent him effectively, failing to communicate adequately or include him in strategy discussions.
“I believe that I was denied my right to counsel,” Kilpatrick said.
Making a Break
Edmunds disagreed, saying she felt “Mr. Thomas represented you vigorously” and “with great personal effort.”
She pointed out that Kilpatrick had hired Thomas in the past before he became a court-appointed attorney.
Kilpatrick said “I didn’t believe it was a contract for life.”
“I have affection for this man,” Thomas said, while reaching out to touch Kilpatrick.
But he added: “Maybe it would be appropriate for me to stop representing him.”
At the end of the proceedings, Kilpatrick asked that the judge sign an order letting his father make prison visits. Rules prohibit visits by a co-defendant.
The judge said she'd sign the order, drawing a smile from Bernard Kilpatrick smiled.
When a reporter later asked the father if dumping Thomas it was a good move, he replied: "Absolutely."