Feds wrap up case against former Detroit mayor

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Associated Press

Posted on February 11, 2013 at 12:33 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 11 at 3:02 PM

DETROIT (AP) — Kwame Kilpatrick turned Detroit's City Hall into a "private profit machine" when he was mayor by rigging city contracts, demanding bribes and even stealing money meant for the needy, a prosecutor said during closing arguments Monday in Kilpatrick's federal corruption trial.

Kilpatrick spent $840,000 more than he earned as Detroit's mayor from 2002 until 2008, Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Michael Bullotta told jurors as he summed up the evidence the government presented during the five-month trial.

As Bullotta spoke, jurors were shown images of checks documenting the alleged corruption and damaging text messages between Kilpatrick and a co-defendant, Bobby Ferguson, whose construction company landed contracts worth millions during the Kilpatrick years.

"They turned the mayor's office into Kilpatrick Incorporated, a private profit machine," the prosecutor said.

"No deal without me — that was their mantra, those were their words, that was their scheme," Bullotta said. "They controlled city contracts, not for the good of the people but to line their own pockets."

Kilpatrick, 42, is charged with 30 crimes, including bribery, racketeering conspiracy, extortion and tax violations. He has denied wrongdoing, and his attorney, James Thomas, has explained that people regularly gave Kilpatrick cash for his birthday or to mark other milestones.

Defense attorneys were to deliver their closing arguments Tuesday and Thursday. No session was scheduled for Wednesday because a juror had a conflict.

Kilpatrick, a Democrat, was a target of law enforcement even before he was forced to resign in 2008 amid a different scandal involving steamy text messages between him and his chief of staff, with whom he was having an extramarital affair.

The federal case is much deeper, stretching back to when Kilpatrick was a state legislator, before he was elected mayor in 2001. His 71-year-old father, Bernard Kilpatrick, and Ferguson are also on trial as part of the alleged racketeering conspiracy.

Kwame Kilpatrick took notes as Bullotta spoke. He occasionally offered hushed words to his lawyer but mostly leaned back and rested his chin in his hand.

The prosecutors focused on three key areas: $84 million in contracts given to Ferguson, Kilpatrick's use of a nonprofit fund for the needy called the Civic Fund, and bribes Kilpatrick allegedly demanded from businesses that wanted to keep or get city work.

Bullotta reminded jurors that Kilpatrick created the Civic Fund to help Detroit residents in distress. Instead, he said Kilpatrick looted it to buy golf clubs, send his sons to camp, take yoga classes and travel. Ferguson once donated $75,000 to the fund, which Bullotta said was his way of "sharing the spoils" from rigged water department contracts approved by the "Kilpatrick enterprise."

After resigning in 2008, Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to obstructing justice by lying in a civil case about whether he had had sex with a top aide. He subsequently served 14 months in prison for violating his probation in that case.

Voters booted his mother, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, from Congress in 2010, partly because of a negative perception of her due to her son's troubles.

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Follow Ed White at http://twitter.com/edwhiteap

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