Kwame Kilpatrick (Detroit News file photo)
Detroit — Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick asked a federal appeals court to vacate his conviction late Wednesday and order a new trial — nearly one year after he was sentenced to 28 years in prison, one of the longest prison sentences ever handed down to a corrupt politician.
Defense lawyer Harold Gurewitz filed the 80-page appeal with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The appeal largely revives arguments Kilpatrick made during the nearly six-month trial that two of his defense lawyers had a conflict of interest regarding a former client, Detroit towing titan Gasper Fiore, a one-time government witness.
Kilpatrick also said U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds erred by allowing lay opinion testimony from federal agents and that an order for him to pay the Internal Revenue Service and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department more than $4.5 million was not authorized by federal law.
“Kilpatrick was denied a fair trial because the court allowed the two case agents to testify 23 times and ‘spoon feed’ the jury the prosecution theory of the case based on the agents’ review of all the text messages, recorded calls and documents, the jury never had the opportunity to review on their own and to use to draw their own conclusions,” Gurewitz wrote.
Kilpatrick, 44, was found guilty of 24 counts in March 2013, including racketeering conspiracy. He is serving the sentence in an Oklahoma medium-security prison and is scheduled to be released Aug. 1, 2037.
At sentencing, the judge castigated him for living “larger than life” on millions of dollars he stole after creating a “corrosive pay-to-play” system in city hall.
“I hope that the sentence that I'm about to impose will give that message, that we're demanding accountability and transparency in our government,” Edmunds said. “That where there has been corruption, there will be no more. We are done.”
Even though he admitted he “really messed up,” Kilpatrick denied the most damning charges: That he operated a complex racketeering enterprise centered on lining the pockets of himself and contractor Bobby Ferguson. Though prosecutors estimated the loss at $9.6 million, Edmunds put the loss at a more conservative $4.6 million.
Before being sentenced, Kilpatrick apologized for his behavior in general and said he wasn't a thief.
“I've never done that, your honor,” Kilpatrick said.