DETROIT (AP) — Jurors in a city buffeted by financial crisis convicted former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on corruption charges Monday, capping a five-month trial that exposed a brazen pay-to-play culture during his years in office while the distressed city lost jobs and people and veered toward insolvency.
Kilpatrick could face more than 10 years in prison for two dozen convictions, from racketeering conspiracy to bribery to tax crimes. Once hailed as a hip, young big-city leader, he was portrayed at trial as an unscrupulous politician who took kickbacks, rigged contracts and lived far beyond his means.
"Kwame Kilpatrick didn't lead the city. He looted the city," U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in victory.
At the government's urging, Kilpatrick, 42, was ordered to jail to await his sentence, along with Bobby Ferguson, a city contractor who benefited from having a pal as mayor and also was convicted.
Businesses said they were forced to hire Ferguson as a subcontractor or risk losing work through the city's water department. Separately, fundraiser Emma Bell said she gave Kilpatrick more than $200,000 as his personal cut of political donations, pulling cash from her bra during private meetings at city hall. A high-ranking aide, Derrick Miller, told jurors that he often was the middle man, passing bribes from others.
Internal Revenue Service agents said Kilpatrick spent $840,000 beyond his salary as mayor, from 2002 to fall 2008.
"I saw a lot that really, really turned my stomach," said a female juror, a Detroit resident who had voted twice for Kilpatrick when he ran for mayor. "I couldn't believe this type of thing was going on."
The names of jurors were not released by the court, part of the secrecy promised by the judge last summer. Eleven agreed to speak to reporters, although they declined to give their names and refused to be interviewed by TV crews.
The trial occurred at a time of extraordinary crisis in Detroit. Population has fallen 25 percent to 700,000 since 2000. Public finances are in the red for billions of dollars, mostly future pension obligations. Half of property owners are overdue with their property taxes. Meanwhile, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder could appoint an emergency financial manager in a matter of days, making Detroit the largest city in the country to be taken over by state government.
Detroit's woes were decades in the making. But Kilpatrick's crimes certainly fueled perceptions that he and his staff were far adrift, selfishly lining their pockets, while the city slipped even further.
Detroit's budget deficit topped $300 million by 2008 when Kilpatrick was forced out in a different scandal, a series of lies to cover up an extramarital affair with a top aide.
The current mayor, Dave Bing, said the verdict would allow the city to move from "this negative chapter in Detroit's history."
Andre Falconer, a 43-year-old plumber, said Kilpatrick is yet another politician who betrayed the public.
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