Since life in prison apparently wasn’t an option, Michigan and Detroit citizens are going to have to be content with ex-Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s 28-year prison sentence.
With a little luck, maybe Kwame will get some extra time for bad behavior and we won’t hear from him again until the mid-century mark. Even that will be too soon.
It’s hard to put into words the amount of damage Kilpatrick did to the city that twice elected him mayor and to the people who so desperately wanted him to help Detroit regain its lost luster — or at least keep the street lights on.
Sure, the legal charges are all there: racketeering conspiracy, extortion and tax crimes. But there was so much more. Prosecutors called it the “Kilpatrick enterprise,” a years-long, all-consuming criminal effort that eventually led to the convictions of more than 30 people, including crony Bobby Ferguson and Kilpatrick’s own father and sister.
Federal agents said Kilpatrick spent $840,000 beyond his salary during his time as mayor and even tapped into a nonprofit fund for Detroit residents; instead, the money went to pay for yoga classes, camps for his kids, golf clubs and travel.
There was no scheme to which he wouldn’t stoop.
With that said, though, Kilpatrick’s biggest sin was the damage he did to the city’s already awful reputation. When it appeared things were perhaps beginning to turn around, there was Kwame, the boy mayor gone bad.
The city hosted the Super Bowl in 2006 and Kilpatrick basked in the limelight; but just two years later he was forced to step down as mayor after it was revealed through sexually explicit text messages that he had lied during a trial to cover up an affair with his top aide, Christine Beatty, and to hide the reasons he demoted or fired police officers who suspected wrongdoing at city hall.
Things snowballed after that, culminating in his conviction in federal court and the 28-year sentence.
There will no doubt be an appeal and Kilpatrick could someday see a few years lopped off his prison term. But there’s no appeal for Detroit. The city is being run by an emergency manager, schools are a disaster, the police and fire departments are barely functioning and unemployment is charitably pegged at more than 50 percent.
Not all of that was Kilpatrick’s fault. But in the end he stole more than money — he took the city’s pride and hope for the future.