Thomas M. Cooley Law School's Auburn Hills campus will host "Anatomy of a Public Corruption Case," an interactive panel discussion of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's trial on Wednesday. Panelists include U.S. attorneys Mark Chutkow and Michael Bullotta, and defense attorneys Jim Thomas and Michael Naughton. Thomas and Naughton represented Kilpatrick during the government's investigation and at trial. Cooley Professor Alan Gershel will moderate the panel.
"With such a prominent case and so polarizing a defendant, the Kilpatrick case faced intense media and public scrutiny," said Gershel. "Under these circumstances, it is important that all parties perform complete and thorough research, conduct themselves by the letter of the law and use creative strategies. This panel will take an in depth look at the case and dissect the methods used and intricacies involved."
Sponsored by the Criminal Law Society, the panel will walk attendees through the investigation, the pre-trial and the trial itself. Panelists will share how they conduct a high-profile case and the relationship between the investigators, prosecutors and defense. Information will include strategies for organization of voluminous discovery materials and evidence, the jury selection process and trial strategy.
The panel will also address media management and pretrial investigation strategies.
Background on the case
In October Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years in prison for corruption that turned city hall into a pay-to-play parlor.
Before he was sentenced, Kilpatrick said he was sorry, but denied stealing money from the city.
"I just want people to know that I am incredibly remorseful for the conditions of the city and any role, any part I played in it," he said. "The government talked about stealing from the city. Wow ...I've never done that, your Honor."
Kilpatrick's sentencing was the result of two dozen convictions that ranged from bribery to extortion to tax crimes.
While the city's finances floundered, Kilpatrick was shaking down contractors, ensuring that close pal Bobby Ferguson got millions in city work and turned a nonprofit fund to help struggling Detroiters into a personal slush fund, according to evidence at his five-month trial. Ferguson was sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Kilpatrick, 43, quit office in 2008 because of a different scandal involving sexually explicit text messages and an extramarital affair.
--Kwame Kilpatrick and his Former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty
He was forced out while the auto industry was nearing collapse and Detroit's unstable finances were deteriorating even more. The city now is run by a state-appointed emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, who took Detroit into Chapter 9 bankruptcy last summer as a last-ditch effort to fix billions of dollars in debt.
"Kilpatrick is not the main culprit of the city's historic bankruptcy, which is the result of larger social and economic forces at work for decades. But his corrupt administration exacerbated the crisis," prosecutors said.
Defense attorneys called it a "cheap shot," noting Kilpatrick had been out of office for five years.
"The government's attempt to roll the city of Detroit's 2013 bankruptcy filing into the... case oversimplifies the complex problems that Detroit has faced for more than five decades," defense attorneys Harold Gurewitz and Margaret Raben wrote.
They asked the court to give some credit to Kilpatrick for the 2006 Super Bowl and 2005 baseball All-Star Game in Detroit, as well as 75 new downtown businesses.
Agents who pored over bank accounts and credit cards said Kilpatrick spent $840,000 beyond his salary during his time as mayor.
--Kilpatrick with his wife and son outside federal court in February of 2013
His trial attorney, James Thomas, tried to portray the money as generous gifts from political supporters who opened their wallets for birthdays or holidays.
In their sentencing memo, Kilpatrick's lawyers made a point that's commonly argued in cases of high-profile criminals: Our client already has suffered deeply.
Kilpatrick is "infamous, destitute and disgraced," the attorneys said.