The trial of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is coming to an end, and the federal prosecutors have presented a searing portrait of him as a man more concerned with profiting from his office than with improving the lives within the economically challenged city he led.
Five years after he left office, Kilpatrick is facing 30 counts that include racketeering, bribery and fraud during his time in public office. He is on trial along with his father, Bernard Kilpatrick, and his longtime friend and contractor Bobby Ferguson.
"He turned the mayor's office into Kilpatrick Incorporated," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta stated in his closing arguments, stressing over and over that four words summed up how a team he labeled as Kilpatrick Enterprise got rich: "No deal without me. Those were their words. That was their scheme.”
Apart from Kilpatrick, Ferguson faces 11 counts. Bernard Kilpatrick faces four. If convicted, they each face up to 20 years in prison.
The trial itself signals a stunning fall from grace of a onetime mayor who was widely seen as a promising new political force in Detroit and in the Democratic Party.
Bullotta’s characterization of the former mayor’s business dealings was forthright and damning. He maintained the theme that doing business with Kilpatrick as mayor created a climate of fear among potential contractors. If one wanted to do business with the city, Bullotta said, the former mayor’s father and cronies had to be a part of the financial equation.
He mentioned a plan to divert money from contracts in the city’s billion-dollar water department. "And it worked — boy, did it work," the prosecutor said.
"You can confirm that nobody, least of all a public official, is above the law," Bullotta said. "Do the only thing that's justified based on their actions. Find them guilty of every single count in this indictment."
Nonetheless, many people in Detroit say they have grown weary of the trial and the negative attention that it places on their city.
“I think people are tired of the trial,” said the Rev. James C. Perkins, the pastor of the Greater Christ Baptist Church in Detroit. “For us, this is old news now. People are ready to move on. We’re focusing on who the next mayor will be.”
Charles Pugh, the Detroit City Council president, echoed that feeling. “My sense from the average citizens is that they are ready for this to come to an end,” Pugh said. “They are ready for the reputation of the city not to be dragged through the mud anymore.”
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(Photo: AP Photo/Detroit Free Press)