The former mayor of Detroit, Michigan was sentenced to 28 years in prison on Thursday after being found guilty of committing racketeering conspiracy, fraud, extortion and tax crimes during his stint in office.
Prosecutors asked for a minimum of 28 years for Kilpatrick, who resigned from the mayor’s office in 2008 amid an unrelated scandal. Defense attorneys, the Associated Press, reported hoped for only a decade-and-a-half.
“At the very least, a significant sentence will send a message that this kind of conduct will not be tolerated,” Judge Nancy G. Edmunds of United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan said before she made her determination early Thursday.
“The government has asked for a sentence of 28 years,” Edmunds said. “I believe that is in fact what his sentence should be.”
According to Barbara McQuade, the US attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, Edmunds’ ruling is"equal to the longest sentence" for corruption ever handed down to a public official.
McQuade said the sentence was “appropriate for the type of staggering corruption we saw in this case,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
Kilpatrick was convicted seven months earlier of a myriad of corruption-related charges totaling 24 counts in all. The New York Times reported Thursday that Kilpatrick is on the roster of at least 18 city officials who have been convicted of corruption during his tenure as the top leader in Detroit, a position he was elected to start in 2002, in turn becoming the youngest mayor of the city’s history at age 31.
“I understand this city,” Kilpatrick said during his inaugural address. “This position is personal to me. It's much more than just politics.”
Indeed, prosecutors said Kilpatrick masterminded a vast enterprise while in office that cumulated in two-dozen convictions handed down this past March and this week’s sentencing.
McQuade, the district attorney, told CNN after Kilpatrick’s conviction earlier this year that "The mayor was not focused on running the city. He was focused on using the mayor's office as a money-making machine."
Allegations lobbed against Kilpatrick during his trial included accusations that he took bribes and misused funds, all while what Judge Edmunds said was abusing the power that came with the role of mayor. The government previously asked Kilpatrick and a contractor friend involved in scheming the city through the mayor’s office to cough up more than $9 million in restitution to compensate Detroit for money swindled during the marred administration. A text message scandal credited with prompting Kilpatrick’s 2008 resignation mandated he pay $1-million to the city, of which only 15 percent has been handed over so far.
Prosecutors said Kilpatrick funneled millions of dollars to himself, his friends and his family while running Detroit, a rust belt city that has been on the decline for ages and only recently filed for bankruptcy. Detroit has seen two mayors take officer since Kilpatrick resigned in 2008, but the city is currently under the control of Kevyn Orr, an emergency manager instilled at the helm of Motown by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder earlier this year.
According to a report released by Orr’s office in March, Detroit had “negative cash flows of $115.5 million” at the end of the last fiscal year. Bill Nowling, a spokesman for Orr, told Bloomberg News that all of the city’s revenue couldn’t pay off its debt in 20 years’ time. Critics of Kilpatrick say he is at least partially to blame.
"I want the city to heal. I want it to prosper. I want the city to be great again," he said at Thursday’s sentencing hearing. "I want the city to have the same feeling it had in 2006, when the Super Bowl was here."