Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years in prison today by a federal judge on corruption charges. Before the judge announced the sentence, Kilpatrick addressed the court and said he wanted the city of Detroit “to heal.”
“I know you have to render a sentence … I respectfully ask for a fair sentence, based on what happened here,” Kilpatrick said to Nancy G. Edmunds, a judge in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
He said he believes “that I really, really, really messed up” and said he was sorry to those he let down, including his wife, children and parents.
“I want the city to heal,” he said. “I want the city to prosper. I want the city to be great in the end. I want the city to have the same feeling it did in 2006 when the Super Bowl was here. … Everybody felt like this was their town.”
Prosecutors are seeking 28 years in prison for corruption that they claim deepened the fiscal crisis of Detroit, which is now mired in bankruptcy.
Of his father, Bernard Kilpatrick — convicted on a single charge and facing prison time — Kilpatrick said: “My father’s a good man. He’s a real good man. Typical Detroit north end guy. Talk a lot of stuff. But he’s not a criminal.”
After his parents divorced when he was 10 years old, he said his father told him he would be there for the rest of his life—and he was.
“I’m a great dad because of him,” the former mayor said.
According to prosecutors, Kilpatrick used the mayor’s office to steer $127 million in contracts to his partner Bobby 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, 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 Sept. 21 start date was almost exactly four years from the day Kilpatrick left office.
Federal prosecutors presented months’ worth of damning evidence and witness testimony leading up to the March conviction.
Judge 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.