Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick walks to federal court in Detroit… (David Coates / AP /Detroit…)
The former mayor of Detroit grew rich while in office by receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash from a contractor who performed work for the city water department, prosecutors alleged Friday at the start of the former official’s corruption trial.
Kwame Kilpatrick, 42, forced from office by another scandal in 2008, is on trial on charges including racketeering, conspiracy, extortion and bribery. Also on trial are his father, Bernard Kilpatrick; friend and contractor Bobby Ferguson; and former city water commissioner Victor Mercado. All face more than 10 years in prison if convicted on all charges.
The trial, expected to last months, is the latest corruption scandal involving U.S. mayors.
On Friday, assistant U.S. Atty. Mark Chutkow outlined the case against Kilpatrick, describing him as a state senator who was elected mayor in 2001 and then with other defendants launched the corruption scheme. The contractor involved did millions of dollars of work for the city.
Chutkow told the jury that Kilpatrick deposited more than $200,000 in cash in his bank account and paid his credit card bills with an additional $280,000 in cash. The prosecutor said more than $60,000 in cash was spent on custom-made suits.
“It didn't come from his payroll check. It did not come from a rich relative, and it didn't come from savvy investments,” Chutkow told the jury, according to the Associated Press.
Kilpatrick, who now lives in Texas, served a 14-month prison term for a probation violation in the wake of a 2008 conviction; that conviction was for lying from the witness stand about an extramarital affair.
Defense atty. James Thomas emphasized Kilpatrick's innocence in his opening statement.
“The government has charged a racketeering conspiracy and everything but the kitchen sink. … You're going to learn about politics,” said Thomas, according to the news service. “Politics is like making sausage. You know it's not pretty; it's messy. But once it's cooked, it tastes pretty good.”
The trial begins on the heels of corruption charges against two mayors currently in office. Earlier this week, the mayor of Central Falls, R.I., agreed to plead guilty to a corruption charge in connection with no-bid contracts on foreclosed houses. And Tony Mack, the mayor of Trenton, N.J., was arrested recently on corruption charges in connection with a purported parking garage project.
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