DETROIT (CBS Detroit) – Federal prosecutors are seeking a 28-year prison sentence for disgraced former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and cohort Bobby Ferguson.
“The scale of his corruption was astonishing. The impact on the region was devastating,” said prosecutors in a sentencing memo filed in U.S. District Court.
Prosecutors say Kilpatrick was the mastermind of 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.
“City government essentially became up for grabs for the right price.
This was not “politics as usual” as Kilpatrick’s defense team would later argue during his trial on federal racketeering charges. Kilpatrick extorted city vendors to help his co-conspirators and to line his own pockets. He rigged bids and took bribes. He defrauded non-profits to enrich himself, his wife and his associates. And worst of all, he did it all in a city where poverty, crime and lack of basic services made it one of the most vulnerable metropolitan areas in the nation,” the memo states.
See the Kilpatrick sentencing report HERE.
U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade is seeking a prison term of at least 28 years for Kilpatrick, and 14-28 for Ferguson.
Sentencing is set for October 10 before Judge Nancy Edmunds in federal court in Detroit.
In Ferguson’s sentencing memo, prosecutors say the pair’s scheme started back before Kilpatrick was even the mayor, when as a state representative he “stole several hundred thousand dollars” in grant money and used it to renovate Ferguson’s office and pay Carlita Kilpatrick for a job she didn’t do.
Ferguson is described in the report as the “catalyst at the center of an historic and unprecedented extortion scheme along with former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.” He’s described as working “hand in glove” with Kilpatrick while he was in office.
It escalated over the years into a scheme to “extort tens of millions of dollars,” prosecutors wrote. Overall, prosecutors said Ferguson was awarded $73 million in contracts while Kilpatrick was in office.
Ferguson demanded bribes and relied on Kilpatrick to back up his threats, prosecutors said.
In a statement out Thursday, McQuade says Kilpatrick was entrusted by the citizens of Detroit to guide their city through one of its most challenging periods — a time when the city desperately needed resolute leadership.
“Instead it got a mayor looking to cash in on his office through graft, extortion and self-dealing,” said McQuade.
“Detroit has now entered a painful period of reassessment and unprecedented financial constraints. With hard work and good fortune, the city will rise again. But it will do so without—and in spite of— its former leader.
“For Kilpatrick similarly to move forward, he will need to recognize and accept the true nature and scale of his wrongdoings— how many people he let down and exploited, the enormous consequences of his criminal choices, and the fact that he was not the victim but the cause of the painful circumstances he now faces,” she said.
In March, Kilpatrick and Ferguson were convicted of racketeering conspiracy and other crimes. The government said Kilpatrick fixed contracts in a “pay to play” scheme, adding as mayor, Kilpatrick accepted bribes and abused a nonprofit fund, enjoying a posh lifestyle while his constituents suffered.
Wayne State University Law Professor Peter Henning says it’s not uncommon for the prosecutors to ask for a long sentence.
“Quite often what you see in these cases you see are the defense asking for a much lower sentence, prosecutor asking for a very high sentence, and the judge will come somewhere in between,” Henning said.
“I certainly would expect Judge Edmunds to be closer to the government recommendation,” he said.
Kilpatrick has said his trial was unfair.