Ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard, was sentenced Thursday afternoon to 15 months in prison for a single tax crime stemming from the City Hall corruption case.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds said Bernard Kilpatrick, 72, took money and did no work for contractors who were strong-armed by his son, requiring a prison term to send a strong message that public corruption won’t be tolerated.
As part of his sentence, Edmunds also ordered him to repay $62,000 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service. The judge said she would recommend that he serve his time in a Texas prison, starting after Jan. 1.
“Good luck, Mr. Kilpatrick,” the judge told him.
Bernard Kilpatrick showed no visible reaction as his sentence was announced.
Prosecutors had argued Bernard Kilpatrick should spend almost three years in federal prison while his lawyer contended he should be sentenced to probation or a short prison term. Kilpatrick was convicted in March of failing to report $180,000 in 2005.
The tax charge was punishable by up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Prosecutors wanted Bernard Kilpatrick to spend 27-33 months in federal prison because of his background and need to avoid disparities with other similar convicted felons. He also should pay $98,262 restitution to the Internal Revenue Service, prosecutors wrote.
Bernard Kilpatrick caught an early break during the hearing when Edmunds lowered his sentencing guidelines after concluding a $100,000 payment from Cobo Center contractor Karl Kado was not income.
Edmunds said there was not enough evidence to conclude the payment was income and that it was supposed to be a campaign contribution. Her decision lowered the sentencing guidelines to 15-21 months in prison.
Assistant Attorney General Jennifer Blackwell said Bernard Kilpatrick should be sent to prison because he failed to cooperate in the City Hall corruption case.
“It would be patently unjust …for Bernard Kilpatrick, a convicted defendant, to receive a ‘light sentence’ when he went to trial and obviously did not cooperate,” Blackwell told U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds.
“He was not acquitted of the most serious crime: racketeering,” she added. “That was a hung jury. He is here because he threatened to blow up contracts and took payoffs.”
Kilpatrick participated in a scheme along with his son to use the mayor’s office to benefit themselves “and his family will have to deal with those repercussions,” she added.
But the defendant’s lawyer said before the sentencing that he should be sentenced as a first-time offender who led a substantial life and is a father of three.
“We’re sentencing the whole man today, we’re not sentencing just a tax count of conviction,” defense lawyer John Shea told Edmunds. “We forget, I think sometimes, that Bernard led a substantial life for decades prior to his son becoming mayor.”
Addressing the court, Bernard Kilpatrick told the judge he regretted filing the false tax return but admitted no other wrongdoing.
“My life was turned upside down,” he said. “I brought misery to my family and my friends ... this experience really has humbled me.”
“Bottom line: I messed up, no question about it.”
Bernard Kilpatrick conspired with his son and contractor Bobby Ferguson to exploit city contracts and persuaded contractors to pay him for access to the former mayor, pocketing $1.3 million for mostly no-show work, prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memo. He also deposited more than $605,000 in the bank during his son’s reign even though he had no other source of income and was a bad gambler, prosecutors said.
The City Hall corruption jury found Bernard Kilpatrick guilty of one count of filing a false tax return, though it could not reach a unanimous verdict on racketeering conspiracy, a 20-year felony.
“It is a crime that was motivated by greed,” prosecutors wrote late Friday, the same day Ferguson was sentenced to 21 years in prison and one day after Kwame Kilpatrick got 28 years.
“Kilpatrick flagrantly used his son’s position as mayor to elicit more money for himself, for little to no work performed,” prosecutors continued.
In a 21-page sentencing memo, Bernard Kilpatrick’s lawyer, John Shea, portrayed Bernard Kilpatrick as a family man and “pillar of support” for Kwame Kilpatrick’s three children as they coped with the government’s years-long investigation of their father.
“Bernard Kilpatrick stands convicted of a single tax offense. It is a felony, and it is serious, but it is his only conviction in his 72 years and as noted by the Probation Department it is in a relatively low amount that can be repaid,” Shea wrote in a sentencing memo Tuesday.
Bernard Kilpatrick also was featured in one of the corruption trial’s most dramatic moments. He was shown on a hidden FBI video pocketing $2,500 from a sludge-hauling contractor who allegedly was paying bribes to win a $1.2 billion city deal. Prosecutors called it a bribe; Bernard Kilpatrick’s attorney called it payment on an old debt.