He lied, cheated and helped bankrupt a great city


Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick — the self-proclaimed “hip-hop mayor” and the son of a former Congresswoman —  was sentenced today to 28 years in federal prison for running a criminal enterprise that cost taxpayers at least $20 million.

Kilpatrick, 43, was apologetic and remorseful in court today. He admitted to hurting his wife, three sons and the city of Detroit. The pleas of his attorney for a lighter sentence didn’t sway the judge. Kilpatrick was convicted earlier this year of steering city work to his friend, Detroit contractor Bobby Ferguson and dozens of others. In all, 34 public officials and private citizens were convicted in the corruption scandal. Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick, was one of them.

Before his sentencing, Kilpatrick said he shouldn’t have “blurred the lines” with Ferguson but claimed he never knowingly hurt the city of Detroit. Blurred the lines? Really Kwame? Do you expect people to believe you didn’t know exactly what you were doing and who you were trying to help? Yes, politicians and businessmen have been scratching each others’ backs since the beginning of time, but that doesn’t make the practice right. And if anyone is going to get caught it will be a young, confident black man who lives lavishly, parties with prostitutes and pretty much dares anyone to challenge him.

Kilpatrick has already served time for perjury. He lied about an affair with his chief of staff and tried to pay off a police official who knew about it. That resulted in a whistle blower lawsuit that cost the city dearly. When their text messages, exchanged on city-issued cell phones, were revealed, the mayor was busted. He blamed the media and his enemies — everyone but the man in the mirror.

My time in Detroit was brief — I lived and worked there for a year. In that time, I met some of the strongest, friendliest people I’ve met anywhere. Many were southern transplants like myself who made the trek decades ago when automotive jobs were abundant. Several of my relatives were among them and still live in the city and its surrounding suburbs. Detroit is a proud city. It is also a crumbling one.

 The city is in bankruptcy court, the result of years of bad decisions by public officials and a declining tax base. Its school system is in shambles. If you’re curious to learn more about how the city got to this place, go to freep.com, the website of my former employer, The Detroit Free Press.

One of the newspaper’s most powerful pieces outlines the decisions made by Kilpatrick and other Detroit mayors which put the city in this spot. Even more harmful than Kilpatrick’s corrupt dealings, was his decision to borrow $1.4 billion to restructure the city’s pension debt, a move Wall Street investors hailed as a good one at the time.

The people hurt most by Kilpatrick and his cronies are the people of Detroit and the former mayor’s family. The judge was kind of enough to allow him to serve his time in a federal prison in Texas, so he can be near his wife and sons. Kilpatrick talked about his sons today when he spoke to the court about starting his career as a teacher so he could help young people. When he enters prison, his sons would join the number of young black boys growing up without their father, he said. Too bad he didn’t think about that before he was consumed by power and greed.

They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. And Kwame Kilpatrick is America’s latest poster child.


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