DETROIT — An appeals court on Friday upheld the corruption conviction and 28-year prison sentence of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who was found guilty of two dozen crimes from tax evasion to bribery.
Kilpatrick's appeal centered on an alleged conflict among his trial attorneys, among other very technical reasons. But a three-judge panel at the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found no reason to upset the outcome, although a $4.5 million restitution order was set aside and must be recalculated.
"We are gratified that the jury's verdict has been upheld and believe that the decision is thorough and well-reasoned," the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
After months of trial, a jury in 2013 found that Kilpatrick rigged contracts, took bribes and committed other corrupt acts, often with contractor Bobby Ferguson, who got lucrative city work.
The government called it the "Kilpatrick enterprise," a scheme to shake down contractors and reward allies. Kilpatrick was doomed by his own text messages, which revealed efforts to fix deals for Ferguson, an excavator.
In his appeal, Kilpatrick said his defense was tainted because his attorney, James Thomas, had earlier represented a prosecution witness. Thomas was also affiliated with a law firm that was representing Macomb County in a civil lawsuit against Detroit.
But the appeals court noted that U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds cured any conflict by appointing another lawyer to step in during certain moments in the trial.
"The trial record shows that Kilpatrick's attorneys were loyal and diligent in their representation," the appeals court said.
Harold Gurewitz, the lawyer who handled Kilpatrick's appeal, was disappointed with the result but suggested that additional steps would be pursued. He could ask the full appeals court to look at the case — an extremely long shot.
Agents who pored over bank accounts and credit cards said Kilpatrick spent $840,000 beyond his salary during his time at city hall, from 2002 to fall 2008. Defense attorneys tried to portray the money as generous gifts from political supporters who opened their wallets for birthdays or holidays.
"I'm ready to go so the city can move on," Kilpatrick had said at his sentencing, expressing sorrow for letting down his hometown but denying that he ever stole from the citizens of Detroit.
Kilpatrick, 45, the son of former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, is at a federal prison in Oklahoma. The appeals court also affirmed Ferguson's conviction and 21-year prison sentence.
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