Federal Prosecutors Attack Former Detroit Mayor's Appeal Claims

by | October 10, 2014

By Tresa Baldas

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's claims that he was wrongfully convicted and that his lawyers were no good are hogwash, the government argued Friday. And as for Kilpatrick's claims that his lawyer wasn't good enough and posed a conflict of interest, the government says:

"He cannot show that, absent the alleged conflict, 'the result of (his trial) would have been different.' "?

In court documents filed with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, the government urged the court to deny Kilpatrick's request to have his conviction overturned and grant him a new trial.

But like Kilpatrick, the government wants to go to Cincinnati and state its case in person before the federal appeals court.

This, records show, is some of what the government wants to tell the 6th Circuit about Detroit's former mayor.

"During the seven years before he resigned, Kwame Kilpatrick turned the Detroit mayor's office into a criminal enterprise. Together with his codefendant, Bobby Ferguson, Kilpatrick extorted city contractors at the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, delaying millions in DWSD contracts until firms hired or paid off Ferguson."

"He used his nonprofit, the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, for personal luxuries and his mayoral campaign, after promising donors that it would support Detroit's neighborhoods, city youth, and crime prevention. He shook down other businesses too _ compromising city government with a "pay- to-play" system where bribery was not just commonplace, but required.

"And when the dust cleared, Kilpatrick's bank records alone showed over half a million dollars in unexplained cash."

The government argued all this during a six-month trial that ended with Kilpatrick and Ferguson being convicted of racketeering conspiracy, multiple counts of extortion, bribery and fraud. Kilpatrick got 28 years in prison; Ferguson got 21. Both are appealing.

Kilpatrick has argued that he didn't get a fair trial in 2012-13 for three reasons: _He was forced to go to trial with a lawyer, James Thomas, he didn't want _ and shouldn't have had _ due to a conflict of interest. Thomas was working for a law firm that was suing Kilpatrick for the same crimes he was defending him against. He also said Thomas didn't grill the government's star witness, Derrick Miller, his onetime right-hand man, hard enough, and that he should have asked him more questions.

_The nearly $4.7 million he was ordered to pay in restitution was not authorized under federal law.

_The judge erred in allowing two FBI agents to offer their opinions to jurors about what Kilpatrick's and others' text messages meant and how texts and phone calls showed the ex-mayor was involved in crooked contracts.

The government attacked all three arguments in its filing Friday, stating "the convictions here did not rest on agents' interpretations of text messages." The government argued that agents properly testified that "no city records authorized Ferguson to have a role in the contracting process, and that Kilpatrick did not exchange texts with other city contractors on the same subjects as he did with Ferguson."

It also argued that Kilpatrick cannot show that his defense team, which included attorney Mike Naughton, was disloyal to him. It said that Thomas was only "of counsel" to the O'Reilly Rancilio law firm that was suing Kilpatrick, which means he was loosely affiliated with it; the defense lawyers kept Kilpatrick's files at their own, separate office; they used separate, password-protected computers; and they avoided any substantive discussions with anyone from the law firm.

"They also preserved their duty of loyalty, taking no financial interest in the civil case_or in O'Reilly Rancilio generally," the government argued.

Moreover, it argued: "Kilpatrick's claim fails for yet another reason: he cannot show that, absent the alleged conflict, 'the result of (his trial) would have been different.' "

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