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1:35 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

Former Detroit Mayor Kilpatrick Sentenced To 28 Years In Prison

Originally published on Thu October 10, 2013 5:33 pm

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I really messed up. Those words today from the former mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, before he was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison on corruption charges. Kilpatrick added: We've been stuck in this town for a very long time dealing with me. I'm ready to go so the city can move on.

The sentencing comes after the 43-year-old Kilpatrick was convicted of two dozen counts, including extortion, while he was at the helm of a city that's now in bankruptcy. The U.S. attorney in Detroit, Barbara McQuade, says the former mayor's sentencing ends a bleak time for the city.

BARBARA MCQUADE: Public officials and the entire city were living under this cloud of suspicion. At that point, Mayor Kilpatrick was out of office and people were still sort of waiting for the other shoe to drop. We wanted to end the case, reach a just conclusion and move on.

BLOCK: Reporter Quinn Klinefelter of member station WDET was in court for today's proceedings. He joins me now. And, Quinn, why don't you remind us what these two dozen counts were that Kilpatrick was convicted of?

QUINN KLINEFELTER, BYLINE: Well, 24 federal counts of corruption that includes bribery, extortion and racketeering, which is something that's usually reserved for organized crime figures. And in this case, the government was saying that Kilpatrick ran city hall basically as an organized crime syndicate, that he took the bribes, he misused nonprofit funds and would steer contracts to a friend of his - a city contractor, Bobby Ferguson - and then take kickback payments from that, that basically that he used city hall to enrich himself as a money-making machine and, in the process, took taxpayers' money from what was at the time and still is one of the most impoverished cities in the nation, the city of Detroit.

And it was corruption that the government would use some pretty strong adjectives for. They would say it was astonishing in its breadth. It was devastating to the city. And it's resulted in the fall of one person who - Kilpatrick was seen as a pretty rising political star and has had really quite a fall.

BLOCK: Well, today's sentence, 28 years in federal prison, is considered one of the stiffest in the nation's recent history for a white collar crime. What did the judge have to say?

KLINEFELTER: Basically that this was a warning to potential people running for office in the future, that it was a cautionary tale. There has been a rise in white-collar crime penalties over the recent years. And recently, a Cleveland City Council - a former city commissioner was given 28 years. That was used as the benchmark in this case. And both the Justice Department and the judge in the case, Nancy Edmunds, said that Kilpatrick went far beyond what was seen in the Cleveland case. She said that he had such promise as a political figure and yet chose to waste his talents to help himself get rich.

He made comments in court that sounded very much as if he was remorseful for what he had done, and yet he never accepted the responsibility of the crimes. He never admitted. In fact, he actually, at one point, said that I don't agree with the convictions. That really seemed to not play well with the judge who said that the jury had made those convictions and that it was time to simply lower the boom legally on the former mayor.

BLOCK: And, briefly, Quinn, what was the reaction today from Kwame Kilpatrick's supporters and his opponents?

KLINEFELTER: Very mixed, as it was during his time in office. Some people were happy. They were cheering that this was finally done, that he deserved that. There were people that were sad, that thought he had so much promise and it had all seemed to vanish though. There were others that said that they thought it was racially motivated, that they were after him because he was, quote, "a young, black man that was trying to get ahead." But for many, it was simply that the city has this scandal past it finally and can finally move on.

BLOCK: OK. Quinn Klinefelter of WDET in Detroit. Quinn, thanks.

KLINEFELTER: Thank you.

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