Ex-Detroit mayor gets up to 5 years in prison
DETROIT (AP) – Time and again, Kwame Kilpatrick’s exceptional oratory skills rallied Detroit voters to his side despite his frequent troubles as mayor.
But all his swagger and professions of love for family, God and the city failed to sway a judge Tuesday, who sent Kilpatrick to prison for up to five years for violating his probation stemming from his conviction for lying under oath about an affair with his chief of staff.
The former mayor’s rehabilitation “clearly … has failed,” Wayne County Circuit Court Judge David Groner said before announcing his sentence.
“Frankly, your continued attempt to cast yourself as the victim, your lack of forthrightness, your lack of contriteness and your lack of humility serve to affirm that you have not learned your lesson,” the judge said.
The criticism was some of the harshest leveled at the one-time hip-hop mayor and darling of Michigan’s Democratic Party, who early on in his political career displayed the bravado and eloquence to talk his way out of politically thorny situations.
Brash and arrogant, Kilpatrick was criticized during his first term for improperly using city credit cards to pay pricey restaurant tabs. It was later revealed that his wife used a city-leased vehicle for her personal use. Each time, he asked for his constituents’ forgiveness, and he came from behind to win re-election in 2005.
But his political fortunes soured when Kilpatrick testified in a whistle-blower lawsuit trial that he was not romantically involved with his chief of staff. Text messages between the two later showed he was lying. Before the text message scandal broke, the city paid the two whistle-blowers an $8.4 million settlement.
At issue during Tuesday’s hearing was $1 million Kilpatrick was ordered to pay the city after pleading guilty in 2008 to obstruction of justice. Groner ruled last month that Kilpatrick failed to report all of his assets and meet other conditions of his probation.
Before Groner sentenced Kilpatrick to one-and-a-half to five years in prison, including 120 days for time served, the former mayor was allowed one more chance to plead for leniency.
Dressed in a dark, custom-fit suit, Kilpatrick stood, paused several moments then cleared his throat as the courtroom packed with the news media, supporters and the curious hushed to listen.
“It’s hard to speak to some of the things that have been said about me,” he said. “Let me just start by saying, I’m a human being; a real live flesh and blood person. And often times when I read about myself, read about that person … I’m extraordinarily confused because it’s not me.”
Over the next 15 minutes, Kilpatrick recounted how he fell in love with his wife, Carlita, and later cheated on her; failed as mayor; admitted to the text message scandal, which led to perjury charges and forced him from office; and the 99 days spent in jail after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice charges that stemmed from the scandal.
Kilpatrick described how, after joining his family in an affluent Dallas suburb, he lavished them with gifts “trying to make everything perfect.” The problem was that the money spent on plastic surgery for his wife, presents and high living should have been used to help pay what he owed Detroit.
“I want to go home your honor, where I belong,” Kilpatrick told Groner, appealing to the judge’s compassion.
There would be little from the judge, who said Kilpatrick “failed to sincerely accept responsibility” for his actions. He had Kilpatrick led from the courtroom in handcuffs.
Assistant Prosecutor Athina Siringas said that the former mayor’s plea for mercy was “vintage Kwame Kilpatrick. The reality of the situation is totally different. He accepts no responsibility for his own behavior.”
Kilpatrick’s attorney, Michael Alan Schwartz, vowed to appeal, and had 42 days in which to do so.
Schwartz said he was “deeply disappointed” by the sentence and expressed uncertainty about how Kilpatrick would come up with the remaining $860,000 he owes the city.
“Some people feel he should have outside contrition. I guess the best thing to do is to come out in sackcloth and ashes,” said Schwartz, defending Kilpatrick’s desire for extravagance. “He didn’t go out and live in a certain lifestyle. Is that what he’s being put into prison for? Because he didn’t do all those things?”
To date, about $140,000 has been paid toward restitution since his 2009 release from jail, with $3,000 each month coming from his $120,000 annual salesman salary at Covisint in Dallas.
But on Tuesday, Covisint’s Detroit-based parent company, Compuware Corp., said it was firing him and that he’d be off the payroll by the end of the month. The company said it “didn’t have any” choice but to fire Kilpatrick.
During restitution hearings, prosecutors revealed that Kilpatrick had funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars into his wife’s bank accounts and failed to disclose $240,000 in loans from Compuware Chair Peter Karmanos and other prominent businessmen.
Those claims led Groner to find Kilpatrick guilty of probation violation and to Tuesday’s decision to send him to prison.
A loud gasp went up from the gallery Tuesday when Groner rendered his sentence. Kilpatrick seemed shaken, and many of the curious onlookers seemed awed by the latest chapter in the former mayor’s downfall.
“I almost teared up when he gave his speech,” said 43-year-old Simona Smith, who let out a shriek when the sentenced was announced.
“That was a good speech but it’s hard to believe,” she said. “He’s lied so much … he’s unbelievable.”
Adolph Mongo, a political commentator who worked on Kilpatrick’s 2005 campaign, said the people of Detroit appear to have run out of patience with the former mayor.
“The excuses all ran out,” Mongo said. “When he was a young guy, people gave him the benefit of the doubt. He can still talk. I thought he gave an eloquent speech in court, but it was a little too late. At the end of the day, he was a general without an army.”
Associated Press writers Ed White and Nicquel Terry contributed to this report.
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