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Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick faces prison

HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 3/18/2013, 10:51 a.m.

If the news out of Detroit isn't bad enough with the deaths of three notable Motown singers and an impending emergency manager on the horizon, on Monday, former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted of corruption and racketeering conspiracy charges that could land him behind bars for 20 years.

The son of two prominent political parents, Kilpatrick's promising career began in 2001 when he became mayor of Detroit. He faced 30 charges and was found guilty on 24, not guilty on three and no consensus verdicts on three others.

According to reports, Kilpatrick, 42, was surprised and baffled by the verdicts read to the court by U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds. The hulking former football player left the courtroom without speaking to reporters.

One of the main charges against Kilpatrick stemmed from his association with Bobby Ferguson, the owner of an excavating company who was awarded lucrative contracts from the city for work with the water department. Prosecutors presented evidence to show that Kilpatrick received kickbacks from these arrangements.

Ferguson, who was also convicted of a racketeering conspiracy charge, was often a subcontractor on deals in which business owners had to take the contract or lose it.

In effect, prosecutors said, Kilpatrick was running a veritable "private profit machine" from the mayor's office.

Kilpatrick did not take the stand to testify, but two former aides, Emma Bell and Derrick Miller, did.

Bell said she gave Kilpatrick more than $200,000 from political donations, and Miller said that he was often the go-between in passing bribes to the mayor.

IRS agents said Kilpatrick spent $840,000 beyond his salary and dipped heavily into the Civic Fund he created for distressed Detroiters, using the money for personal expenditures, including yoga lessons, camps for his kids, golf clubs and travel.

This is the second time Kilpatrick faces imprisonment. In 2008, he pled guilty to obstruction of justice following a scandal involving sexually explicit text messages and an extramarital affair with his chief of staff. He resigned from office and later spent more than a year in prison for violating his probation after he failed to report assets that could have gone in for restitution payments to the city.

Kilpatrick's father, Bernard, a former Wayne County commissioner and founder of a consulting firm, was not convicted of corruption or racketeering conspiracy charges but was convicted of submitting a false tax return.

The only damage incurred by Kilpatrick's mother, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, was the loss of her her congressional seat in 2010, mainly from the fallout from her son's indiscretions.

Bernard and Carolyn divorced in 1981.