Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Continues Trial Under Cloud of Shame

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After lunch on Friday, Jurors began to study their notes in the five-month trial of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

He was accused by the prosecution of extortion and bribery and in the closing remarks the prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow, said that Kilpatrick’s bank account swelled with a “tidal wave of green.”

They allege that Kilpatrick spent more than $800,000 beyond his salary whilst in office from 2002 to 2008.

Chutkow told jurors, “We cannot turn away and ignore the corruption that occurred in this city. It is time for the former mayor and his accomplices to be held accountable for their crimes — it is past time.” In a graph, Chutkow allowed the jurors to see it showed a major spike in Kilpatrick’s cash deposits after he was elected in 2001.

Chutkow also laughed at the defendants’ claims that they were committed to helping minorities, arguing that the only ones they were committed to helping were themselves.

“This case has always been about bribery, extortion and fraud,” Chutkow said. He went on to say, “The defendants tried to justify their actions as somehow being driven by the advancement of minority businesses. … That agenda was a smoke screen for their real agenda, which was helping themselves to the city’s resources.”

Kilpatrick is accused along with his father, Bernard Kilpatrick and Bobby Ferguson, construction contractor, of widespread corruption through bribery and extortion. He is charged with 30 crimes including: racketeering conspiracy, bribery, extortion and tax evasion.

Kilpatrick’s defense lawyer said his client simply saved money and got cash gifts from supporters at holidays and at birthdays, including a hotel party called “Splash of Red.” He also said that Kilpatrick, who is black, wanted to help Ferguson, who is also black, and other minority-owned businesses.

“That agenda was a smoke screen,” Chutkow told jurors. “They were equal opportunity extortionists. They drove out black and white contractors who got in their way, and they laughed at people when they came to the Kilpatrick administration for help.”

Kilpatrick, a Democrat, resigned as mayor in 2008 in another scandal. He pleaded guilty to obstructing justice by lying in a civil case about whether he’d slept with a top aide. He subsequently served 14 months in prison for violating his probation in that case.

Ferguson and the Kilpatricks each face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

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