More than two years after he was indicted by the feds, and four years after he resigned in disgrace as mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick steps into the legal ring in federal court today, ready to do battle as he tries to stay free and remain with his wife and kids.
A loss could easily put him behind bars for 10 or 15 years or more. A win would give him freedom and a crown of invincibility.
Flanked by his attorneys, Kilpatrick, 42, will go up against the full-force of the Justice Department and FBI in what is easily the highest profile trial in Detroit in recent memory. The trial is expected to last about four months.
The prosecution, in opening statements today will vilify him, portraying him as the kingpin of the “Kilpatrick Enterprise”, a criminal organization that used city hall to make lots of money for family and friends by rigging contracts and extorting donations to three non-profits.
Kilpatrick’s attorney is likely to portray him as a mayor who cared dearly about his job and the people and was wrongly accused.
The feds will come armed with a full arsenal; wiretaps, surveillance video, his text messages and prosecution witnesses including friends and former appointees.
Kilpatrick, who was chatty and friendly with the press during the grueling jury selection, will be sitting at the table with his co-defendants, his good buddy Bobby Ferguson, a contractor who is central to the corruption case; his father Bernard Kilpatrick, who allegedly sold access to his son; and Victor Mercado, head of the city’s water department, who allegedly had a hand in rigging bids.
Kilpatrick faces 33 counts including racketeering conspiracy, extortion, bribery, mail wire fraud, filing false tax returns and income tax evasion.
Read more from Allan Lengel regarding the start of the Kilpatrick trial on Deadline Detroit