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Kwame Kilpatrick: Disgraced Detroit mayor gets 'massive' 28-year sentence

The sentencing Thursday of Kwame Kilpatrick caps a saga that has gripped the financially strapped city for a decade and has become a frustrating symbol of Detroit's legacy of corruption.

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Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick sits at his sentencing in Wayne County Circuit Court on an obstruction-of-justice conviction, May 25, 2010. Kilpatrick has been sentenced to 28 years in prison for corruption.

Paul Sancya/AP/File

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Disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced Thursday to 28 years in prison, the maximum time sought by federal prosecutors who say he raked the city of nearly $5 million in an extensive racketeering and extortion enterprise benefiting a close circle of family and friends.

Thursday’s sentencing hearing caps a saga that has gripped the financially strapped city for a decade and has become a frustrating symbol of its legacy of corruption.

In her sentencing, US District Judge Nancy Edmunds said Mr. Kilpatrick used “a pattern of threats and pressure” to “steer an astounding amount of business” to his inner circle, and she criticized him for living a lavish lifestyle loaded with perks for his family and friends while the city suffered.

“This is a massive sentence,” says Todd Haugh, a law professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology’s Kent College of Law in Chicago and an expert on white-collar sentencing guidelines. “This is going to put him in the upper echelon of white-collar offenders in the sentencing ranges for the last 10 years.”

In March, Kilpatrick was convicted of 24 counts of corruption in a conspiracy case that included his father, Bernard Kilpatrick; his childhood friend Bobby Ferguson; and ex-water department director Victor Mercado. Those men will receive their prison sentences at successive dates, the first on Friday.

Kwame Kilpatrick’s five-month trial was the result of a six-year investigation that tracked what federal officials described as a scheme to strong-arm city contractors working for the Water and Sewerage Department into funneling $84 million in city contracts to shell companies operated by Mr. Ferguson. Prosecutors described Bernard Kilpatrick as the middleman whom contractors were forced to hire as a consultant to secure city contracts.

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