DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Attorneys for imprisoned former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will argue before a federal appeals panel that he should get a new trial.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has set Kilpatrick’s case for Tuesday afternoon. The 44-year-old is serving a 28-year sentence after his 2013 conviction on corruption charges including racketeering conspiracy, bribery and tax evasion.
Kilpatrick contends he didn’t get a fair trial for reasons that include ineffective counsel; he said his trial attorneys had a conflict of interest.
“Kwame Kilpatrick said the conflict occurred when his trial attorney, Jim Thomas, joined a law firm that was suing Kilpatrick in a civil case,” said WWJ Legal Analyst Charlie Langton. “That civil case alleged most of the same corrupt practices for which Thomas was defending the ex-mayor. Essentially, a law firm cannot represent someone for which it is also suing.”
Kilpatrick’s attorney, Harold Guiruitz, also contends that the judge improperly allowed a FBI agent to give the jury his opinion when he should have stuck to the facts.
“Government agents testified over two dozen times about information that they had that the jury didn’t, and gave their opinions. It is our argument that that testimony was not admissible and the result was an unfair trial for Mr. Kilpatrick,” Guiruitz said.
Prosecutors said Kilpatrick took kickbacks, rigged contracts and lived far beyond his means. Other than confessing to lying under oath about an affair with a staffer, Kilpatrick — who served as mayor from 2002 until he resigned in 2008 — has repeatedly denied any legal wrongdoing.
The judges are also hearing the appeal of co-defendant Bobby Ferguson, a contractor sentenced to 21 years in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Goetz has said in a filing that Kilpatrick can’t prove his defense lawyers had a conflict of interest. Goetz also says the court should affirm the 21-year sentence given to Ferguson, a contractor.
The court is expected to decide the case by issuing a written opinion in about a month.
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