February 12, 2014 at 1:00 am

Taxpayers spent more than $1M on legal defense of Kilpatricks

Kwame Kilpatrick in September 2012 (David Coates / The Detroit News)

Detroit— Taxpayers spent more than $1.16 million on the legal defense of ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his father, Bernard, during the City Hall corruption case, according to figures released Wednesday.

The $1,166,584 tab is not a surprise because experts believed the price tag would top $1 million for all defendants in one of the country’s most complex public corruption cases in decades.

The News reported last year that experts believe the figure for Kilpatrick and other co-defendants charged in the case would top seven figures for the stable of court-appointed lawyers, experts and investigators.

Bernard Kilpatrick’s lawyer, John Shea, said the government should release how much it spent paying federal prosecutors and investigators from multiple agencies, including the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and Environmental Protection Agency.

“The public has a right to know what the case cost, but it’s not particularly fair to gauge it merely from what the defense costs are,” said Shea, who was paid $224,957.

The prosecution’s costs are difficult, if not impossible, to calculate, said U.S. Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Gina Balaya.

“The office doesn’t track costs related to any specific case,” she said in a statement. “The salaries paid to the prosecutors, paralegals, legal assistants, agents and other personnel who worked on this case are fixed costs. They would get paid the same regardless of which case they are working on. As you know, over $7 million were forfeited by the defendants in this case and I can assure you that the cost to prosecute this case was far less than that.”

Kwame Kilpatrick’s defense costs totaled $813,806. That included more than $748,000 for five lawyers, $19,238 for a private investigator, $2,400 for a jury consultant, and $7,215 for an accountant.

Kilpatrick’s highest-paid attorney was James C. Thomas at $429,755. Michael Naughton was paid $260,625. After being found guilty of 24 charges, Kilpatrick dropped Thomas in May, saying their relationship was destroyed. Thomas could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Taxpayers also picked up the tab for more than $72,000 worth of transcripts during the five-month trial, which followed a years-long investigation.

Bernard Kilpatrick’s defense costs, meanwhile, totaled $352,778. That includes $18,017 for an investigator and $73,965 for a paralegal.

The top rate for court-appointed lawyers in federal cases that don’t involve the death penalty is $125 an hour. Shea said their rate was cut to $115 last year amid the budget sequester.

The defense bill will grow once two co-defendants are sentenced, including former Detroit Water boss Victor Mercado.

Kwame Kilpatrick had five court-appointed lawyers and taxpayers footed the bills for four other attorneys for the former mayor’s father and Mercado.

“It is a lot of money but given the amount of hours required for this case it is not out of line,” said Peter Henning, a law professor at Wayne State University and a former federal prosecutor.

A jury found Kwame Kilpatrick and contractor Bobby Ferguson guilty of racketeering and other charges in March. Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years in federal prison; Ferguson 21.

Bernard Kilpatrick was found guilty of a single tax charge and sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.

rsnell@detroitnews.com
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