Detroit’s former mayor faces corruption trial

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DETROIT — After a last-ditch effort to move the case out of Detroit failed, former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is returning to court for the start of a corruption trial that will last months and could land him in prison for more than 10 years.

Kilpatrick, who was forced out of office in a different scandal in 2008, is accused of collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, kickbacks and other favors. His father, Bernard, is a co-defendant in yet another sordid turn for what once was one of Detroit’s most powerful political families.

The 100-page indictment describes Kwame Kilpatrick muscling contractors, rewarding pals and repeatedly reaping illegal benefits — cash, travel, golf, even yoga — while running an ailing city that struggled more than most during the economic downturn.

Opening statements are set for Friday after U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds rejected a request by defense lawyers to move the trial to another city.

“What is extraordinary here is just the volume of evidence, the breadth of the indictment,” said David Steingold, a defense attorney not involved in the case. “I can’t speak to it, but it looks as though they’re just trying to overwhelm Mr. Kilpatrick. They’re trying to throw so much mud at him.”

The charges against him are racketeering conspiracy, extortion, bribery, fraud, false tax returns and tax evasion.

“Was I corrupt? Absolutely not,” Kilpatrick told reporters in August. He now lives in Grand Prairie, Texas.

Besides the Kilpatricks, construction contractor Bobby Ferguson and ex-Detroit water boss Victor Mercado are on trial.

This isn’t Kilpatrick’s first brush with the law. He served a 14-month prison term for a probation violation related to a 2008 conviction for lying from the witness stand about an extramarital affair, a relationship that was revealed in sexually explicit text messages.

At least 10 people who have pleaded guilty in the investigation are on the government’s witness list, including former Deputy Mayor Kandia Milton, former executive assistant DeDan Milton and former chief administrative officer Derrick Miller.

Outside the downtown courthouse, the city Kilpatrick left behind seems to be in a perpetual crisis.

Detroit’s population has fallen significantly. An emergency manager has taken control of the public schools. Police officers work 12-hour shifts and have been hit with salary cutbacks.

The current mayor, Dave Bing, said he doesn’t have much interest in the trial.

“I don’t have time for that,” he said last week while celebrating the rebirth of the city’s century-old aquarium.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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