Ex-Detroit mayor stole from kids, seniors: prosecutor

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 11, 2013 7:52 PM

By Maureen McDonald

DETROIT (Reuters) - Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick took money meant for seniors and children and drove up costs for taxpayers under a long-running criminal enterprise that forced contractors to reward his friends and family, a federal prosecutor said on Monday.

Voters had hoped Kilpatrick would reverse decades of decline in Detroit when he was elected the youngest mayor in city history in 2001. Instead, he faces 30 charges including racketeering conspiracy, bribery, extortion and tax fraud.

"Everything you need to know about this case is in this sentence: No deal without me," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta said in closing arguments on Monday to jurors in the five-month long trial in Detroit federal court.

Prosecutors have accused Kilpatrick of conspiring with friend Bobby Ferguson, a construction company owner, and his father, Bernard Kilpatrick, in a more than decade-long criminal enterprise.

"If you want a city contract you had to pay," Bullotta said. "It doesn't matter if you weren't the most qualified or that Bobby Ferguson was the higher bid or the mayor's office got calls about bad service at Cobo Hall, what mattered is that Bobby Ferguson and Bernie Kilpatrick got paid."

Kilpatrick is accused of forcing contractors to include Ferguson in city water and sewer construction projects, at times holding up agreements to apply leverage. Bernard Kilpatrick or Ferguson were brought into nearly every deal, Bullotta said.

Prosecutors accused the younger Kilpatrick of profiting personally from the mayor's office, referring to bank statements that showed cash pouring in starting in 2002, the year he became mayor, and continuing until he resigned in 2008.

Kilpatrick has also been accused of using money donated to the nonprofit Kilpatrick Civic Fund for personal expenses such as golf clubs, yoga lessons, college tuition for relatives, a crisis manager to support his image and surveillance equipment.

Kilpatrick has denied the charges, and his defense attorneys are scheduled to present their closing argument for acquittal to the jurors on Tuesday morning.

In all, the jurors are being asked to decide on 30 counts against Kilpatrick, 11 against Ferguson and four against Bernard Kilpatrick in the case before U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds.

Prosecutors presented dozens of witnesses, plus text messages, invoices, bank records of cash deposits, other documents and surveillance videos during the trial. Bullotta walked jurors through the cash deposits and key transactions during his closing argument.

Bernard Kilpatrick's defense attorneys are expected to present closing arguments on Tuesday and then Ferguson's on Thursday after a day's recess. Prosecutors would then get the last word before the jury deliberates.

Kilpatrick stepped down as mayor in 2008 under a plea agreement in a separate case in which he admitted to lying under oath during a lawsuit brought by two fired police officers. The charges to which he pleaded guilty showed that Kilpatrick had lied to conceal cell phone text messages that detailed an affair with a woman who was his chief of staff.

Detroit's population has been shrinking for decades, totaling just over 700,000 residents in 2011, compared with more than 1.8 million in 1950. After years of severe budget deficits, the state has been reviewing Detroit's finances and is in the process of deciding whether to appoint an emergency manager.

(Editing by David Bailey, Stacey Joyce, Cynthia Johnston and Tim Dobbyn)