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Ex-Detroit mayor Kilpatrick convicted of range of corruption charges

Rebecca Cook / Reuters file

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick gets into a vehicle in front of the federal courthouse in Detroit on Feb. 12.

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted Monday of a raft of federal corruption charges, a verdict that all but ensures a return to prison for a man once considered a rising political star.

Jurors found Kilpatrick guilty of 24 criminal counts, including racketeering, extortion and bribery, after a trial in which prosecutors said he presided over a breathtaking profit machine that turned City Hall into “Kilpatrick Incorporated.”

The racketeering count alone carries up to 20 years in prison.

Prosecutors said that Kilpatrick, 42, steered $83 million in city work to a friend and contractor, Bobby Ferguson, in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks. Jurors also returned guilty verdicts Monday against Ferguson and against Kilpatrick’s father.

A fundraiser also testified that she gave Kilpatrick a $200,000 personal cut of his political donations and pulled cash from her bra during private meetings.

Kilpatrick, a Democrat, was just 31 when he was elected mayor in 2001. His tenure was scarred by allegations of cronyism, nepotism and out-of-control spending, coinciding with the continued decline of the city itself.

Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in 2008 for lying in a civil trial during which he denied having an affair with his former chief of staff and plotting with her to fire the deputy police chief.

He resigned and spent three months in jail. He later spent more than a year behind bars for violating probation.

The former mayor was found not guilty of three charges, and jurors said they were unable to reach a verdict on three more. Kilpatrick appeared surprised as the verdict was read. He did not speak to reporters as he left court.

Detroit’s current mayor, Dave Bing, said in a statement that “we can finally put this negative chapter in Detroit’s history behind us.” He called for a renewed commitment to transparency and ethics in city government.

Ferguson, who owned an excavating company, was convicted of racketeering. Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard, was convicted of submitting a false tax return.

A judge set a hearing later Monday to determine whether Kilpatrick would be detained immediately or whether he would be released until he is sentenced.

Kilpatrick’s lawyer told jurors that Kilpatrick never extorted anyone and that he only helped Ferguson win city business because he knew Ferguson would hire people who live in Detroit.

Defense lawyers also argued that the government’s witnesses lied to win favor with prosecutors in their own corruption cases.

Prosecutors said Kilpatrick abused a nonprofit fund that he created to help distressed people in Detroit. Evidence at trial showed that he used it to pay for yoga lessons, golf clubs and camp for his kids.

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