July 2, 2014 at 2:52 pm

Bobby Ferguson sent to medium-security prison in West Virginia

Detroit — Kwame Kilpatrick’s crooked sidekick Bobby Ferguson has arrived at his new home for the next 20 years, where he is living with convicted terrorists, jewel thieves and heroin smugglers.

Ferguson arrived Tuesday at the Gilmer medium-security federal prison in Glenville, W. Va. — more than a six-hour drive southeast of Detroit. The male-only prison has 1,681 inmates and 128 at an adjacent satellite camp.

Notable inmates at the prison include David Williams, one of four men convicted in 2010 in a New York synagogue bombing plot, and Serdar Tatar, who was sentenced in 2009 for his role in plotting to kill military personnel at Fort Dix in New Jersey.

Ferguson’s criminal record — including a conviction for pistol-whipping an employee — and other factors kept him from being sent to a low-security prison, Connecticut lawyer and prison expert Todd Bussert said.

Ferguson will serve alongside other violent criminals in a tough environment, he said.

“It’s a very difficult world,” said Bussert, contributing author of the “Federal Prison Guidebook.”

There likely will be a welcoming committee, however.

“When you show up at an institution, inmates will come visit. They want to know if you’re a snitch or if you’re a sex offender,” Bussert said.

Prisoners often will call relatives and have them Google the names of new inmates, he said.

That could be problematic for Ferguson, a one-time millionaire whose firm received city contracts worth tens of millions of dollars during Kilpatrick’s tenure.

“They want to know if the guy has assets and there is a better-than-likely chance he will be confronted by inmates trying to get things from him,” Bussert said. “He’ll have to confront that: inmates asking him to buy them a pair of shoes or send something to their wife.”

Ferguson’s new home isn’t the worst place, or cushy, he added.

“It’s the exact opposite of ‘Club Fed,’ ” Bussert said. “For a guy like (Ferguson), he’s going to be around similar people who have been convicted of violent crimes.”

Ferguson’s lawyer could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Ferguson, 45, has bounced between the federal prison in Milan and the Wayne County Jail since being convicted of racketeering and other charges in March 2013. There was a delay in sending Ferguson to a permanent prison, in part, because he was on trial in a separate bid-rigging case that ended in acquittal earlier this year.

He was sentenced in October 2013 to 21 years in prison, one of the longest sentences in a public corruption case in U.S. history. U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds said he was the “muscle and the money” behind Kilpatrick’s long-running criminal racket inside City Hall.

Ferguson also was ordered to pay almost $6.3 million in restitution to the city, has split with his wife and has claimed to be penniless. But the night before jurors reached guilty verdicts in the City Hall corruption trial, the FBI obtained a search warrant and seized almost $700,000 from accounts linked to the Detroit contractor.

Ferguson's sentence was seven years shorter than the one given to Kilpatrick, 44, who is incarcerated in an Oklahoma prison until August 2037.

At sentencing, Ferguson never apologized but talked about his faith and his disappointment — in a system that is putting so many young African-American men in prison.

The closest he came to contrition: “I've lived a good life, maybe not to the fullest or not to someone's expectations,” he said.

Jurors found the contractor guilty of nine crimes, including racketeering, extortion and bribery — all part of a pay-to-play scheme with Kilpatrick during the mayor's six-year tenure in office. The details of the pair's actions were laid out over the course of a six-month trial in federal court.

rsnell@detroitnews.com
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Bobby Ferguson / Detroit News file photo