The primary thrust of the government’s case, which resulted from a six-year investigation, was that all four conspired in what prosecutors described as “the Kilpatrick enterprise,” a multi-year extortion scheme to strong-arm city contractors working for the city’s water and sewerage department to funnel a total of $84 million in city contracts to shell companies operated by Mr. Ferguson.
Prosecutors described Bernard Kilpatrick as the middleman who contractors were forced to hire as a consultant in order to secure city contracts, some of which were for the biggest public work projects during Kilpatrick’s tenure, such as the demolition of Tiger Stadium and the partial demolition of the Book Cadillac Hotel.
Kwame Kilpatrick, who was charged with the majority of the counts, was portrayed as the ringleader who wielded influence to reap millions of dollars in kickbacks. Kilpatrick served as mayor of Detroit between 2002 and 2008 after serving as a state representative between 1996 and 2001. Prosecutors said his wrongdoing spanned the tenure of both offices.
The case made in the trial against Kilpatrick and his cohorts was overwhelming. Prosecutors rested after four months of testimony. Witnesses included a roll call of former Kilpatrick friends or aides. In total, 90 witnesses took the stand in the trial for both sides.
The most serious guilty verdict for Kilpatrick is for the single racketeering charge, a felony that can bring 20 years in prison.
Most often used to target organized crime, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) law is increasingly used in high-profile public corruption trials, including the federal case against former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2011. While Kilpatrick’s defense attorneys argued that their client was innocent because the gifts he received were unsolicited, or that others in his office approved the expenses, under the law, all the government had to prove was that Kilpatrick had knowledge of the bribe.