DETROIT (WWJ) – It’s a harsh sentence.
That’s the opinion of Wayne State University law professor and former prosecutor Peter Henning, who says he does expect in an appeal in the case of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick — ordered to spend up to 28 years in a federal prison.
“This is the kind of sentence that you see for homicides, major drug dealing,” said Henning. “So, it says that this is as harmful — perhaps even more harmful — than those types of crimes.”
Will other government officials see this as a warning?
“Certainly there’s a lesson in there. Whether it will be learned by public officials is another issue,” Henning said. “If someone wants to be corrupt, and thinks that they can get away with it, they’re going to believe that they’re smarter or better than the former mayor, or anyone else that is convicted.”
Among those gathered outside the courthouse during Thursday’s sentencing was local activist, Detroit leader of the New Black Panther Party, Malik Shabazz,
Carrying a sign that reads: “We’re praying for you,” Shabazz, said he believes the focus on the ex-mayor’s corrupt practices is misdirected.
“Our argument is this: First of all, I can’t condone your sins; you can’t condone mine,” said Shabazz. “What we are saying is … we’ve all made mistakes. A greater man, a wiser man than you and me said, ‘To error is human; to forgive is divine.'”
Shabazz said some things were better in the city during Kilpatrick’s reign.
“We didn’t have six feel of grass in the neighborhoods; we didn’t have piles of four-feet high, 15-feet long garbage and trash and filth all over when we opened up our doors,” Shabazz said.
He doesn’t believe Kilpatrick should not serve any prison time, and should instead only do community service.
Republican John Truscott, who was Gov, John Engler’s spokesperson when Kilpatrick was elected to the legislature, told says Kilpatrick’s wit, intelligence and charisma drew people in.
He said, at that time, Kilpatrick was a masterful politician.
“People just wanted to be around him; he had that kind of magnetic personality,” Truscot said.
“But when it came time to go behind closed doors, you know, you kinda laid the issued on the table … this is what we have in the legislation, how many votes can you bring, what amendments would you need to bring some more folks — he would go out and get the job done,” Truscot said.
“He very rarely couldn’t deliver on a promise that he made,” Truscot said, adding, however, that Kilpatrick blew an opportunity to have a great and meaningful political career.
Metro-Detroit political analyst Steve Hood says the Kilpatrick story is one of egos.
“He never lost,” Hood told WWJ, prior to Kilpatrick’s sentencing Thursday morning. “And until you lose, you aren’t humble; and so you think anything you can touch turns to gold —but that’s not reality.
“Now, so for him never losing, he finally lost the big one,” Hood said.
Weighing in on Twitter, Oakland County Executive L, Brooks Patterson said Kilpatrick’s sentencing for corruption marks “the end of a long Greek tragedy.”
Patterson said Kilpatrick “was intelligent, charismatic [and] witty” but also very greedy. He said what bothers him most “is the sacrifice of a potentially brilliant career.”
Talking to CBSDetroit outsider the courthouse, Detroiter Khalil Fareed said Kilpatrick should have taken a plea.
Said Ishmael Bey,”This country has been in bankruptcy to the Queen of England since 1933 which means the courts are insolvent.”
Saying he felt the prosecution and most Detroiters were satisfied with the 28-year sentence, Pastor W.J. Rideout added, “In my mind justice was not served.”
Current Detroit Mayor Dave Bing issued the following statement:
“I’m glad that this negative chapter in Detroit’s history has finally come to an end for our citizens. Although I certainly feel for the Kilpatrick family and the impact this sentence will have on them, public service requires a higher standard of ethics and accountability. Today’s sentencing sends a strong message to everyone in public office. As we move forward with Detroit’s transformation, honesty, transparency, and integrity in city leadership will be paramount.”
Kilpatrick — who resigned from office in 2008 amid a separate text-messaging scandal — was convicted of racketeering, bribery and extortion in a pay-to-play scheme to enrich himself and his friends.