News Column

Kilpatrick, Ferguson Likely to Get at Least 10 Years

March 11, 2013

L.L. Brasier

Legal experts say today's verdicts in the Kwame Kilpatrick public corruption trial could bring at least 10 years of prison time for the former mayor and his contractor friend Bobby Ferguson, while Kilpatrick's father faces a lighter sentence.

Walter Piczczatowski, a Bloomfield Hills attorney who specializes in federal criminal law, said Kwame Kilpatrick and Ferguson face at least a decade in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. And Kilpatrick will get additional prison time -- perhaps as much as four years -- because he was an elected official at the time of the crimes, Piczczatowski said.

Bernard Kilpatrick's conviction will bring a lighter sentence -- which could include probation -- and the judge can take into consideration the age of the former mayor's father.

Detroit Attorney Ven Johnson said U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds will likely want to send a message with her sentencing -- that public corruption will not be tolerated.

"She's going to throw the book at them big time," he said. "She's going to want this to be a lesson, to teach people out there that this is not how elected officials, how our government can operate."

Johnson speculated that while the defense attorneys would seek immediate appeals, the sheer number of convictions -- Kwame Kilpatrick was convicted of 24, and Ferguson nine -- would make a successful appeal unlikely.

"It's going to fall on deaf ears," he said. "It's pretty clear that jurors decided they were in on this, they knew what they were doing, that they conspired. These are very very serious conspiracy convictions."

Detroit attorney Mark Kriger said the government was banking on jurors -- a number of whom are African American -- to set aside race in their deliberations. "And these verdicts affirm that the government made the right call," he said.

The sheer number of witnesses testifying about the "pay to play" culture of the Kilpatrick era likely led jurors to convict without much hesitation, Kriger said.

"When you have one or two coming in, you might say, 'Hey, they're here to get a deal,'" he said. "But when it's one after another, after another, it's pretty compelling."

Source: (c)2013 the Detroit Free Press Distributed by MCT Information Services

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