Ex-Detroit mayor Kilpatrick loses appeal of conviction

By Jonathan Stempel
Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick leaves the U.S. District Court after he was convicted on federal racketeering and other charges in Detroit, Michigan in this March 11, 2013 file photo. REUTERS/Jeff Kowalsky/Files

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Friday upheld former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's racketeering conviction and 28-year prison sentence, rejecting his argument that he deserved a new trial because his original lawyers had a conflict of interest.

By a 3-0 vote, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Kilpatrick, 45, failed to show that his trial lawyers were constitutionally ineffective because they had recently joined a law firm that was suing him in a civil matter related to the criminal case.

The panel also upheld the conviction and 21-year prison term of Kilpatrick's friend, Bobby Ferguson, 46, a Detroit contractor.

It gave Kilpatrick a small victory, directing that a roughly $4.5 million restitution award he had been ordered to pay the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department be recalculated.

"I am disappointed in the outcome, and expect that we will pursue all available remedies," Harold Gurewitz, a lawyer for Kilpatrick who argued his appeal, said in a phone interview.

Susan Van Dusen, a lawyer for Ferguson, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Kilpatrick was challenging his March 2013 conviction by a Detroit jury on 24 counts including bribery, extortion, mail and wire fraud, racketeering conspiracy and tax evasion.

Prosecutors accused Kilpatrick of using his office to extort bribes from contractors by coercing them to include Ferguson in public contracts, and rigging the awarding of contracts to ensure that Ferguson would benefit from them.

Ferguson obtained at least $73 million of revenue from municipal contracts through the scheme, prosecutors said.

In rejecting Kilpatrick's appeal, Circuit Judge Eugene Siler wrote for the appeals court that the former mayor could not show that his trial lawyers "actively" represented conflicting interests or that an actual conflict impaired their performance.

"The trial record shows that Kilpatrick's attorneys were loyal and diligent in their representation," Siler wrote.

Kilpatrick was once a rising star in the Democratic Party, and was Detroit's mayor from 2002 to 2008.

He is now living in a medium-security prison in El Reno, Oklahoma, and not eligible for release until Aug. 1, 2037.

The case is U.S. v. Kilpatrick et al, 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 13-2500.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Alan Crosby)