Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his partner Bobby Ferguson should spend at least 28 years or more in prison for organizing a “historic and unprecedented extortion scheme” from City Hall, according to federal prosecutors.
In sentencing memos written by four assistant U.S. attorneys for Michigan’s Eastern District, the prosecutors wrote that Ferguson should be sentenced to 14 to 28 years, while Kilpatrick should spend “at least” 28 years in prison for what prosecutors called his “widespread and corrosive breach of trust” during his six years in office.
Kilpatrick’s memo noted that his crimes while in office exceeded all other state and city corruption cases they surveyed, including former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for bribery and extortion charges in 2011.
“Kwame Kilpatrick was entrusted by the citizens of Detroit to guide their city through one of its most challenging periods. The city desperately needed resolute leadership. Instead it got a mayor looking to cash in on his office through graft, extortion and self-dealing,” the memo read.
According to prosecutors, Kilpatrick used the mayor’s office to steer $127 million in contracts to Ferguson, a contractor and head of Ferguson Enterprises.
Back in March, Kilpatrick was convicted on 24 charges after a five-month trial. Along with Ferguson and his father, Bernard Kilpatrick, the fallen politician faced 45 felony charges stemming from his term as mayor. Kilpatrick was found guilty on the most serious charges—extortion and racketeering, each of which carries a sentence of up to 20 years.
Ferguson was also found guilty of 11 charges, while the senior Kilpatrick was only convicted of filing a false tax return.
Kilpatrick’s tenure as mayor ended abruptly in 2008 amid a sex scandal and allegations of corruption. The trial’s September 21 start date was almost exactly four years from the date Kilpatrick left office.
Federal prosecutors presented months’ worth of damning evidence and witness testimony leading up to the March conviction.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds said that jurors came to unanimous decisions on 40 of the trial’s 45 charges, after spending 15 days deliberating. Before reading the verdict aloud, Edmunds thanked the 12 jurors, saying that they did “an extraordinary job.”
“While Ferguson relied on Kilpatrick to back up his threats, Ferguson drove the extortion machine,” prosecutors said in the 30-page sentencing memorandum for Ferguson. “With ruthless abandon, he bullied local businessmen and women, threatening to cancel their contracts and promising to visit financial harm upon them if they did not accede to his demands.”
“Ferguson’s text messages with Kilpatrick revealed that far from promoting other African-American businesses, he actively undermined them, then laughed at their attempts at getting redress from the city administration,” the sentencing memo reads.
The two men have been held at a prison in Milan, Mich., since the trial concluded. They will be sentenced on Oct. 10 by U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds in Detroit, according to the Detroit Free Press.
“Given these facts and the sheer volume of his ill-gotten gains — over $73 million in city contracts — Ferguson is deserving of a sentence at or near that of Kilpatrick,” the attorneys concluded.
The prosecutors said the city of Detroit, currently in bankruptcy, would move forward “in spite of its former leader.”
“For Kilpatrick similarly to move forward,” prosecutors wrote, “he will need to recognize and accept the true nature of his wrongdoings — how many people he let down and exploited, the enormous consequences of his criminal choices and the fact that he was not the victim but the cause of the painful circumstances now faces.”