By Ed White Associated Press
DETROIT — Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted Monday of corruption charges, ensuring a return to prison for a man once among the nation’s youngest big-city leaders.
Jurors convicted Kilpatrick of a raft of crimes, including a racketeering conspiracy charge that carries a maximum punishment of 20 years behind bars. He was portrayed during a five-month trial as an unscrupulous politician who took bribes, rigged contracts and lived far beyond his means while in office until fall 2008.
Kilpatrick wore a surprised, puzzled look at times as U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds read the jury’s verdict: guilty of 24 charges, not guilty on three and no consensus on three more. Kilpatrick declined to speak to reporters as he left the courthouse.
Prosecutors said Kilpatrick ran a “private profit machine” out of Detroit’s City Hall. The government presented evidence to show he got a share of the spoils after ensuring that Bobby Ferguson’s excavating company was awarded millions in work from the water department.
Business owners said they were forced to hire Ferguson as a subcontractor or risk losing city contracts. Separately, fundraiser Emma Bell said she gave Kilpatrick more than $200,000 as his personal cut of political donations, pulling cash from her bra during private meetings. A high-ranking aide, Derrick Miller, told jurors that he often was the middle man, passing bribes from others.
Internal Revenue Service agents said Kilpatrick spent $840,000 beyond his mayoral salary.
Ferguson, Kilpatrick’s pal, was also convicted of a racketeering conspiracy charge. The jury could not reach a verdict on the same charge for Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick, but convicted him of submitting a false tax return.
Kwame Kilpatrick, who now lives near Dallas, declined to testify. He has long denied any wrongdoing, and defense attorney James Thomas told jurors that his client often was showered with cash gifts from city workers and political supporters during holidays and birthdays.
The government said Kilpatrick abused the Civic Fund, a nonprofit fund he created to help distressed Detroit residents. There was evidence that it was used for yoga lessons, camps for his kids, golf clubs and travel.
Kilpatrick, 42, was elected in 2001 at age 31. He resigned in 2008 and pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a different scandal involving sexually explicit text messages and an extramarital affair with his chief of staff.
The Democrat spent 14 months in prison for violating probation in that case after a judge said he failed to report assets that could be put toward his $1 million restitution to Detroit.
Voters booted his mother, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, from Congress in 2010, partly because of a negative perception of her due to her son’s troubles.