Kwame Kilpatrick gets 28 years in prison on corruption charges

Former Detroit mayor says he's sorry for hurt he's caused, but never stole from city


DETROIT – Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for corruption that turned city hall into a pay-to-play parlor.

Read exact breakdown: Sentencing for each of Kwame Kilpatrick's convictions

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds ordered Kilpatrick to pay $100 for each count immediately -- a total of $2,400. She waived his fines due to his "lack of resources." A total restitution amount has yet to be determined.

Edmunds said she will recommend that Kilpatrick spend his prison sentence in Texas, where his family now lives.

Kilpatrick has the right to appeal within 14 days.

Courtroom blog: Kilpatrick's sentencing

"This case is not so much about punishing people for the past, but about shaping our future," U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said. "With a message like this, it's very clear that public officials will be held accountable in the city of Detroit. We hope it will deter people to abuse their public office."

Uncut video: US Attorney on Kilpatrick's sentence


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."


--Sketch by Jerry Lemenu

Kilpatrick's sentencing was the result of two dozen convictions that ranged from bribery to extortion to tax crimes.

View: List of Kwame Kilpatrick's convictions

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.

Watch: An open letter to Kwame Kilpatrick

Kwame Kilpatrick and Bernard Kilpatrick hug in Detroit court. March 11, 2013.
Kwame Kilpatrick and Bernard Kilpatrick hug in Detroit court. March 11, 2013.

-Kwame Kilpatrick and Bernard Kilpatrick hug in Detroit court. March 11, 2013.

"He created a 'pay-to-play' system for the provision of city goods and services, which compromised vast swaths of city government, including the water and sewer system, the convention center, the pension system, casino developments and recreation centers," prosecutors said in a court filing last week." City government essentially became up for grabs for the right price."

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

Story: Christine Beatty talks Kilpatrick affair to Essence

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

Story: Recap: IRS says Kilpatrick was living beyond means

Story: Prosecution: Kilpatrick lived large off Civic Fund money

His trial attorney, James Thomas, tried to portray the money as generous gifts from political supporters who opened their wallets for birthdays or holidays.

Story: Kilpatrick offers explanation of wife's donation request

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.