Bobby Ferguson and Kwame Kilpatrick (Detroit News file)
Detroit— Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick should spend at least 28 years in federal prison for turning City Hall into a money-making criminal enterprise and heading the most damaging public corruption scandal in recent U.S. history, prosecutors said Thursday.
His contractor friend, Bobby Ferguson, should spend up to 28 years for his role in putting a stranglehold on public construction contracts in Detroit and teaming with the mayor “in a criminal partnership of enormous proportions,” according to court filings Thursday.
The recommended sentences would be the stiffest given to defendants charged in a federal public corruption case in recent U.S. history.
Both men could be in their 70s when released from prison, if the U.S. Attorney’s Office request is granted by U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds.
“Kwame Kilpatrick was entrusted by the citizens of Detroit to guide their city through one of its most challenging periods,” prosecutors wrote. “The city desperately needed resolute leadership. Instead it got a mayor looking to cash in on his office through graft, extortion and self-dealing.”
The memos were filed one week before Kilpatrick and Ferguson are to be sentenced in federal court.
The memos offer a scathing view of Kilpatrick’s life, partially blame him for the city’s historic bankruptcy and allege Ferguson continued to obstruct justice while in federal prison.
Ferguson allegedly ordered his girlfriend and relatives to hide money and assets from federal agents, who were listening to his prison phone calls.
Kilpatrick’s guideline range, which is advisory, calls for life in prison.
Edmunds will ultimately decide how long Kilpatrick, 43, and Ferguson, 44, will spend in prison.
They are being held without bond at a federal prison in Milan.
Kilpatrick attorney Harold Gurewitz declined comment Thursday, saying he had not read the entire sentencing memo. Ferguson’s lawyer also declined comment.
Ferguson’s guideline range is 30 years to life in prison.
“Ferguson’s stranglehold over municipal contracting in Detroit for six years was seen and felt by the entire local government contracting community in the Detroit metropolitan area,” prosecutors wrote.
Kilpatrick and Ferguson were convicted of charges related to running a criminal enterprise and dipping into the city treasury to fund lifestyles that included hand-made suits, private jet travel and luxury resort stays.
“It was Ferguson, rather than Kilpatrick, who was the ‘boots on the ground’ of the extortion enterprise, directly issuing threats to the local business people,” prosecutors wrote in the filings.
“Given these facts and the sheer volume of his ill-gotten gains — over $73 million in city contracts — Ferguson is deserving of a sentence at or near that of Kilpatrick.”
The $73.8 million in extorted deals given to Ferguson during the mayor’s reign generated more than $9.6 million in estimated profit for the criminal enterprise, prosecutors say.
“More corrosive than the financial costs of Kilpatrick’s crimes was the intangible harm caused by his abuse of the public trust,” prosecutors wrote.
Prosecutors tried to to strip Kilpatrick of any claim of success as mayor, and mentioned the city’s historic bankruptcy filing in July.
“Kilpatrick is not the main culprit of the city’s historic bankruptcy,” prosecutors wrote. “But his corrupt administration exacerbated the crisis.”
The recommended sentence for Kilpatrick could exceed the longest public corruption sentence in recent years.
In 2012, former Cuyahoga County Commissioner Jimmy Dimora was sentenced to 28 years in prison.
Two years ago, former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years.
“Kilpatrick’s widespread and corrosive breach of the public trust — lasting throughout his six-year tenure in office — exceeds even the worst of these state and local corruption cases,” prosecutors wrote.
“None of the other public officials disrupted his community as profoundly as Kilpatrick did.”