DETROIT (AP) — The public paid more than $1 million for the yearslong legal defense of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his father, according to figures released Wednesday by a federal court.
The Kilpatricks, like many defendants in state and federal court, qualified for attorneys at the public's expense based on their income and assets at the time they were indicted.
Kwame Kilpatrick now is serving a 28-year prison sentence for corruption. His total legal tab, including attorney fees and other costs, was $813,806. Slightly more than half of that amount went to his longtime lawyer, James Thomas.
Thomas said he was paid $125 an hour, the rate for court-appointed counsel in Detroit federal court. The defense began in summer 2010, when Kilpatrick was first indicted for tax crimes. Prosecutors followed up with many additional charges, including racketeering conspiracy, and the five-month trial didn't start until fall 2012.
Kilpatrick was convicted of a sweeping scheme to enrich himself through bribes, kickbacks and extortion. He quit office in 2008 over a different scandal.
Thomas said he had to put many other cases on hold during the Kilpatrick trial.
"I practice law at the very highest level," he said.
"These were 18-hour days, seven days a week for about six months. A lawyer went into the hospital for exhaustion," he said, referring to an attorney for co-defendant Bobby Ferguson. "It isn't about the money. It's about doing a good job. ... The government chose how to charge this case. A racketeering case is the most complex of all criminal cases."
Thomas said hundreds of hours were not billed. All costs had to be approved by court officials.
"This was a worthy effort," Thomas said.
Four other Kilpatrick lawyers were paid in the case, including Thomas' partner, Michael Naughton, who received $260,625.
Bernard Kilpatrick's legal costs added up to $352,777. His attorney, John Shea, received $224,957. The elder Kilpatrick was convicted of a tax crime and is serving a 15-month prison sentence.
The government's cost to investigate and prosecute the Kilpatricks is "difficult, if not impossible, to measure," said Gina Balaya, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Detroit.
"The salaries paid to the prosecutors, paralegals, legal assistants, agents and other personnel who worked on this case are fixed costs. They would get paid the same regardless of which case they are working on," she said.
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