- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

DETROIT (AP) - A political fundraiser who pulled cash from her bra as kickbacks to then-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced to probation Thursday for tax evasion.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds said Emma Bell was courageous for testifying against Kilpatrick, whom she considered a son.

Bell’s entanglement in Kilpatrick’s schemes was “unfortunate but understandable,” Edmunds said.

Bell, 70, was a fundraiser for Kilpatrick’s mayoral campaigns as well as a nonprofit fund that the government said he abused. She was paid a percentage of what she raised but told jurors that she was forced to give him more than $200,000 in cash for his own use.

She said she would meet privately with Kilpatrick and pass money hidden in her bra. It was a small but significant part of a long corruption trial that ended with his conviction and a 28-year prison sentence in 2013.

Bell “cooperated the first day we talked to her,” Assistant U.S. Attorney R. Michael Bullotta told the judge.

But Bell had her own problems. She owes $334,000 to the government after admitting she evaded taxes for 2003 through 2008 and so far has paid only $7,000.

“I’m just asking for your mercy,” Bell said in court.

Edmunds placed Bell on probation for two years instead of ordering jail or prison and prohibited her from gambling. She also must get counseling for alcohol use.

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