Corruption at Detroit's City Hall: America's dirtiest mayor jailed for 28 years

Kwame Kilpatrick oversaw the downfall of the now-bankrupt city that was once the beating heart of US car production

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The Independent US

He was the city mayor who lined his pockets as the one-time industrial powerhouse he presided over lay in ruins. And now, as he faces 28-years behind bars, the former mayor of Detroit has said the city can finally “move on” following a series of corruption scandals.

The conviction of Kwame Kilpatrick, who served as mayor for six years until 2008, brings to a sorry end the ruin of the man who represented the downfall of the now-bankrupt city that was once the beating heart of US car production.

In March the 43-year-old was convicted of racketeering conspiracy, fraud, extortion and tax crimes. He resigned as mayor after lying under oath in a lawsuit, later approving an $8.4million (£5.3m) settlement to cover it up.

During his time at the head of the North Eastern city 18 other officials were convicted of corruption while homes were repossessed, buildings lay vacant and street lights were switched off.

Last July Detroit filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy - the largest municipal filing in US history - with debts estimated at up to $20bn. Kilpatrick is said to fattened his bank accounts by hundreds of thousands of dollars as the city lay in ruins.

“I'm ready to go so the city can move on,” Kilpatrick said. “The people here are suffering, they're hurting. A great deal of that hurt I accept responsibility for.”

Kilpatrick's correspondence revealed his efforts to fix lucrative contracts for his friend, Bobby Ferguson, an excavator who earned millions from the city water department.

Contractors said they were forced to take on Ferguson as a partner or risk losing lucrative deals. The Government alleged that he in turn shared cash with Kilpatrick. It is believed that Ferguson illegally received $73m in city contracts through Kilpatrick's manipulations. He is due to be sentenced on Friday after being convicted on nine counts of corruption.

The Democrat mayor's dealings - including brokering a $1.44bn deal in 2005 to restructure Detroit's pension liabilities - were widely blamed for driving the city towards bankruptcy.

Federal agents who poured over bank accounts and credit cards said Kilpatrick spent $840,000 beyond his salary during his time as mayor. His defence attorneys subsequently attempted to portray the money as generous gifts from political supporters.

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been sentenced to 28 years in prison (Getty)

It was also alleged that Kilpatrick also tapped a non-profit fund, which was created to help distressed Detroit residents, to pay for yoga, camps for his children, golf clubs and travel.

“A man with the charisma and ability of Mr Kilpatrick chose to use his talents on personal aggrandisement and enrichment when he had the potential to do so much for the city,'' said Judge Nancy Edmunds before imposing the sentence. ”At the very least, a significant sentence will send a message that this kind of conduct will not be tolerated.“

Kilpatrick actually resigned in a different scandal that was extraordinary at the time but later seemed insignificant compared to the sweeping federal probe that has led to the mass convictions.

Sexually explicit text messages revealed that Kilpatrick had lied during a trial to cover up an affair with his top aide, Christine Beatty, and to hide the reasons for demoting or firing police officers who suspected wrongdoing at city hall.