May 29, 2014 at 1:00 am

Kilpatrick's right-hand man sentenced to 1 year in halfway house

Detroit— Derrick Miller, the star witness against ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, dodged prison Thursday and was sentenced to serve one year in a halfway house.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds credited Miller for cooperating with investigators and offering an insider’s view of a racketeering conspiracy headed by Kilpatrick.

“It took tremendous courage and strength to acknowledge what you did,” Edmunds told a stone-faced Miller. “The citizens of Detroit have much to thank you for and to shake their heads at your involvement early on. It seems clear you have turned your life around in a major way. Good luck.”

The sentence contrasted sharply with the one Edmunds gave Kilpatrick, who is serving 28 years in an Oklahoma prison.

Miller is the last member of the so-called Kilpatrick Enterprise to be sentenced and caps one of the biggest public corruption cases in U.S. history. The case shed light on the misbehavior of Detroit’s leaders as the city’s finances soured, eventually leading to last year’s historic municipal bankruptcy filing.

Miller, 44, also must serve three years’ probation and pay an undetermined amount of restitution and federal taxes for pocketing bribes and committing tax crimes. Miller did not apologize during a brief speech to the judge but thanked his family and friends.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the citizens of Detroit, my friends and family for their enormous capacity to show love and forgiveness,” Miller told the judge.

Inside court, Miller shook hands with FBI and other federal agents and prosecutors.Outside court, Miller cracked a smile and hugged a supporter.

“Mr. Miller owned up to his actions and is going to make amends and graciously accepts the sentence,” defense lawyer Byron Pitts told reporters.

Edmunds called Miller’s sentence perhaps the most difficult in the Kilpatrick corruption case.

“There is no question you got caught up in the activities of the Kilpatrick administration, not just a momentary lapse of judgment ... and you were involved in wrongdoing that hurt the city in some fundamental ways,” Edmunds said.

The sentence is longer than the eight-month halfway house sentence given to ex-Detroit Water boss Victor Mercado for his role in the corruption scandal. But it fell short of the 15-month prison sentence the judge gave Kilpatrick’s father Bernard for committing a tax crime.

Miller is a former high school classmate of Kilpatrick’s and an appointee who worked as the city’s chief administrative officer.He pleaded guilty to taking $115,000 in kickbacks from a real estate broker in connection with the sale and lease of city property and sharing the cash with Kilpatrick. He also pleaded guilty to failing to report more than $46,000 in kickbacks on his tax return and a $568,000 consulting fee related to a Detroit pension deal.

Miller struck a plea deal with prosecutors in the case and faced up to 10 years in prison. The U.S. Attorney’s Office asked for up to 40 months because Miller cooperated with investigators and testified during the City Hall corruption trial.

“Public officials should take note that early and extraordinary cooperation will yield a substantially lower sentence,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said in a statement.

rsnell@detroitnews.com
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