I’m completely disgusted with Kwame Kilpatrick.
He’s a thief and a liar who betrayed the black residents of Detroit who expected so much and received so little. The former mayor of Detroit who emerged with so much promise was found guilty Monday on 24 counts of racketeering, conspiracy and extortion and a judge ordered Kilpatrick directly to prison.
No bail. No debate. No mercy.
Kilpatrick, perhaps the most underhanded mayor in Detroit’s history, got the verdict he deserved.
As he was led away in handcuffs, Kilpatrick turned to his sobbing family and said: “Stay strong.”
During a five-month trial, prosecutors said Kilpatrick, 42, was using Detroit as his own “private profit machine,” raking in loads of cash for his own personal pleasures and neglecting the needs of black residents who are struggling every day to make ends meet.
Jurors were told that Kilpatrick was a corrupt politician who took bribes, rigged contracts and lived far beyond his means.
And now he could face 20 years in prison.
“I saw a lot that really, really turned my stomach,” one juror told reporters. “I couldn’t believe this kind of thing was going on… but there was never any anger. Disappointment is all I feel.”
Some black residents of Detroit are insisting this is a case of racism, where whites set-up Kilpatrick to discredit him and, in an orchestrated effort, took down another black leader.
“Racism and ignorance is still profound in this city,” Omarrai Ali, one of Kilpatrick’s former students, told The Detroit Free Press. “They charged that man like he was Al Capone; like he had a criminal organization. This is flabbergasting.”
Nonsense. Jurors agreed that Kilpatrick was running a systematic criminal enterprise. This is not about racism: this is about Kilpatrick’s greed, lack of integrity and corrupt behavior.
I was born and raised in Detroit and I rooted for Kilpatrick when he was elected as Detroit’s youngest mayor in 2001 at the age of 31. Kilpatrick had promise and a gift of persuasion. What I didn’t know – and what I could not have known — was that Kilpatrick was corrupt to the bone.
Sadly, Kilpatrick isn’t the only black politician to be accused of corruption in the past few weeks.
“First Junior Jesse, now Kwame. I hope Ray Nagin is the last,” said Tom Joyner, host of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.”
“It’s no secret that I thought 10 years ago that Kwame would be the first Black President,” Joyner said. “Now because of the crimes he’s been found guilty of committing, he and other Black politicians are limiting the Big Chief’s choices when it comes to appointing black cabinet members. It’s a sad day for America, Detroit, black people and most importantly, Kwame’s family. He’s a husband, a dad and a son….who could have been great.”
I interviewed Kilpatrick exclusively in 2010 just days before he was ordered to serve 14 months in jail for a probation violation stemming from an obstruction of justice case.
Kilpatrick told me back then that he had a spiritual breakthrough; that he prayed on his knees every night and that Pastor T.D. Jakes was offering him spiritual guidance.
“I know my reckless behavior disappointed people,” Kilpatrick told me during an hour-long interview. “I know I let people down. I carried that guilt but at some point, you have to shake it off, you have to forgive yourself and stand up and start walking forward.”
“I don’t think my punishment was just about lying about an affair,” he added. “I think my punishment was turning my back on God, who sent me to that position as mayor.”
I hope Detroit can heal and move forward now that Kilpatrick’s sensational trial has ended.
“A lot of kids looked up to Kwame Kilpatrick,” Sanford Miles told The Detroit News. “Now a young black kid in the urban communities that knows that one day I could be a mayor or a president now has his hopes diminished because … Kwame is not a good role model any more, and a lot of kids are hurt by this.”
Here are just a few of the many comments posted on Tom Joyner’s Facebook page after the Kilpatrick verdict was announced.
Andee: “How is a corrupt official who was found guilty a sad day for black people? He raped the city coffers to line his pockets, when the city desperately needed that money.”
Sylvia: “That’s just a dog gone shame! He’s got STUPID Written across his face.”
Valeria: “God bless us here in the City of Detroit. Sad Day for our former Mayor. Now we must move on. Will politicians ever learn what’s done in the dark will come to light. Justice has prevailed.”
Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Kwame’s mother, who served for three decades in the U.S. Congress, only said a few words Monday as she walked into the courthouse.
“I served for 32 years,” she told reporters. “Pray for my family.”
In my interview with Kwame Kilpatrick in 2010, he tried to convince me and the residents of Detroit that he was a changed man; someone who had learned from past mistakes and is now motivated by faith.
“Lord knows I don’t want to go back,”[to jail] Kilpatrick told me. “But I do need to say…that God had me just where He wanted me.”
State prosecutors now have Kilpatrick just where they want him, too: In prison.