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Kilpatrick crony tries to dodge prison sentence

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Marc Andre Cunningham, Kwame Kilpatrick’s former assistant and fraternity brother, wants to avoid prison after helping convict the ex-Detroit mayor and others in wide-ranging corruption scandals.

Cunningham’s lawyer asked for the lenient sentence Monday, blaming the former City Hall official’s involvement in a public corruption scandal on his “blind obedience” to Kilpatrick.

Cunningham is one of the last members of Kilpatrick’s administration facing a possible prison term in connection with widespread corruption at City Hall. Federal investigations have led to 38 convictions, including Kilpatrick and Monica Conyers, the ex-Detroit councilwoman and wife of U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Detroit.

Cunningham has admitted funneling cash from a firm that received $30 million in city pension funds to Bernard Kilpatrick, the mayor’s father. Cunningham also admitted pocketing $5,000 from an undercover FBI agent, who was working on a public corruption probe in New Jersey.

Cunningham, 45, faces up to 37 months in federal prison when sentenced at 10 a.m. Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds. The sentencing comes more than four years after Cunningham pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery.

“Mr. Cunningham never profited from these payments, he was (in) fact shaken down by Bernard Kilpatrick,” defense lawyer Vincent Toussaint wrote in a court filing.

Federal prosecutors on Monday asked the judge to sentence Cunningham to a halfway house and three years’ probation.

“Cunningham’s offense harmed the fabric of honest city government and is therefore serious,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael Bullotta and Mark Chutkow wrote Monday. “Accordingly, there is a need for a sentence to deter others from committing similar misconduct.”

Cunningham lives in Washington D.C., and works as a middle-school basketball coach.

Cunningham was a Kilpatrick fraternity brother at Florida A&M University. He resigned from City Hall in July 2008 after media reports said his phone had been briefly tapped as part of an FBI investigation into the Synagro Technologies Inc. sludge contract.

The conspiracy dates to 2006, when Cunningham was working as a consultant for the venture-capital firm Syncom Management Co. Inc. He helped the firm land a $30 million investment from two city pension funds and was paid a $300,000 commission.

After helping the firm secure the money, Cunningham became Kilpatrick's executive assistant and eventually headed the film office.

Cunningham’s troubles started while working as Kilpatrick’s executive assistant. Cunningham’s father-in-law introduced him to people purportedly involved in offering insurance to municipal employees, according to court records.

The individuals were undercover FBI agents and informants. Cunningham, in turn, introduced them to Bernard Kilpatrick.

In early 2010, the FBI confronted Cunningham about accepting $5,000 cash from an undercover agent, according to court records.

Cunningham admitted spending the money and started cooperating with the FBI.

Cunningham gave the government an insider’s view of Kilpatrick’s corrupt administration. He testified during Kilpatrick’s trial, which ended in prison sentences for the former Detroit mayor, his father and contractor Bobby Ferguson.

Cunningham also provided inside information about former Detroit Treasurer Jeffrey Beasley and the city’s corrupt pension system. He testified against Beasley during a trial last fall.

Beasley, former pension trustee Paul Stewart and pension fund lawyer Ronald Zajac were found guilty of conspiracy in December and are awaiting sentencing in federal court.

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