Jury Finds Detroit Ex-Mayor Guilty On Many Charges

9:56 AM, Mar 11, 2013   |    comments
Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, right; and his co-defendant, Bobby Ferguson, center, leave the federal courthouse in Detroit early in their trial. (Photo: Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free Press)
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Tresa Baldas and Jim Schaefer, Detroit Free Press

DETROIT - A jury has convicted former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on corruption chargesafter a five-month trial that portrayed him as a greedy politician who took bribes, fixed contracts and lived far beyond his salary.

The verdict Monday is another defeat for the man who left office in 2008 amid an unrelated scandal involving sexually explicit text messages and an affair with an aide.

The government said Kilpatrick rigged city contracts to help his buddy Bobby Ferguson, and then got a share of the spoils. Witnesses said Kilpatrick got bribes and kickbacks from his political fundraiser and a convention center contractor. He was also accused of tapping a nonprofit fund for personal use.

The former mayor is facing 30 counts. The charges include racketeering, extortion, bribery, mail and wire fraud, tax evasion and filing false taxes. Ferguson faces 11 counts, including racketeering, extortion and bribery.

His father, Bernard Kilpatrick, is facing four counts: one racketeering, one extortion, and two filing false tax returns.

If convicted, each defendant faces up to 20 years in prison.

The verdict was reached following a five-month-long trial that included 80 government witnesses, scores of financial documents, text messages and secret audio and video recordings.

The Kilpatricks and Ferguson are charged with running a criminal enterprise through the mayor's office to enrich themselves.

They are accused of, among other things, shaking down contractors and rigging bids to help steer lucrative contracts to Ferguson. Prosecutors said the philosophy of the enterprise was simple: If you wanted work in the city of Detroit, you either had to hire Ferguson, or in some cases, hire the mayor's father as a consultant. That was one of the main themes in the government's nearly five-month long trial.

The jury also heard plenty about Kilpatrick's lavish lifestyle and his nonprofit Kilpatrick Civic Fund, which the government said Kilpatrick used as a personal piggy bank. The fund was meant for voter education and youth, but Kilpatrick used it for everything from yoga lessons and vacation getaways to college tuition for his relatives and spy equipment, prosecutors said.

Several businessmen also testified that they lavished Kilpatrick with vacations, custom-made suits and jewelry because they wanted to keep him happy, and they needed help with city deals.

All three men have vigorously denied the charges, saying they never demanded anything of anyone and were committed to helping minority businesses grow.

Detroit's former mayor faces 30 counts, including extortion, bribery and tax evasion.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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