Federal prosecutors presented their closing arguments in the corruption case against former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick today by portraying him as the head of a “private profit machine” they labeled “Kilpatrick Enterprise” and said the mayor used it to rig city contracts, demand bribes and even steal money intended for the needy —ultimately spending $840,000 more than he earned during his six years as mayor.
The federal trial has lasted five months, though court watchers say it hasn’t been that difficult to follow because much of the government’s case revolves around the former mayor’s lavish lifestyle, which prosecutors contend couldn’t have been possible without the corruption.
The 42-year-old Kilpatrick, who shot to fame as the so-called “hip-hop mayor” because of his youth, is charged with 30 crimes, including bribery, racketeering conspiracy, extortion and tax violations.
Kilpatrick’s attorneys are expected to present their closing arguments tomorrow and Thursday, with Wednesday off because a juror has a scheduling conflict. The primary defense presented by his attorney, James Thomas, has been that people regularly gave Kilpatrick cash for his birthday or to mark other milestones.
“They turned the mayor’s office into ‘Kilpatrick Incorporated,’ a private profit machine,” the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Michael Bullotta, said during his closing arguments.
“No deal without me — that was their mantra, those were their words, that was their scheme,” Bullotta said, while images were shown to the jury of checks documenting the alleged corruption and damaging text messages between Kilpatrick and a co-defendant, Bobby Ferguson, whose construction company landed contracts worth millions during the Kilpatrick years. “They controlled city contracts, not for the good of the people but to line their own pockets.”
The federal charges against Kilpatrick come after he has already served 14 months in prison for violating his probation in an earlier case, in which he pleaded guilty to obstructing justice for lying about whether he had sex with a top aide.
Kilpatrick resigned from the mayoralty in 2008 in the midst of a scandal that featured steamy text messages sent between him and his chief of staff, with whom he was having an extramarital affair.
But the federal corruption case is much more far-reaching, dating back to when he was a state legislator and pulling in Ferguson and Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard, 71.
According to ABC, the prosecution is focused on three key areas: $84 million in contracts given to Ferguson; bribes Kilpatrick allegedly demanded from businesses that wanted to keep or get city work; and, perhaps most damaging to the jury’s perception of him, his use of a nonprofit fund for the needy called the Civic Fund.
Bullotta stressed to jurors that the mayor created the Civic Fund to help Detroit residents in distress, but instead he used it to buy golf clubs, send his sons to camp, take yoga classes and travel. The prosecutor told the jury that Ferguson once donated $75,000 to the fund to share the spoils of rigged water department contracts approved by the “Kilpatrick Enterprise.”
In 2010, the mayor’s mother, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, lost her congressional seat that she held for 14 years. In the eyes of many, she lost because the voters were punishing her for the transgressions of her son.