Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How the mighty have fallen

Sorry but I don't think that telling an elected official that you're held to a higher standard is tantamount to treating him differently under the law.

Kilpatrick gets 1.5 to 5 years in prison, loses job
Doug Guthrie and George Hunter / The Detroit News

Detroit -- Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced to 18 months to five years in prison today by Wayne Circuit Judge David Groner, who said the former mayor engaged in "contemptible behavior" by hiding assets from the court in violation of his probation.

Groner chastised Kilpatrick before imposing the sentence, and several people in the courtroom gasped when the judge handed down his decision. Kilpatrick's sister, Ayanna, was told by sheriff's deputies to sit down.

"Probation is no longer an option. The terms of your earlier probation no longer apply. That ship has sailed," Groner said. "This is all because of the actions of you, Mr. Kilpatrick. You were convicted ... all because you lied under oath. That lie ... was part of a broader attempt to cover up your misdeeds while serving as mayor.

"You challenged this court's authority," Groner said. "You attempted to utilize semantics and exploit loopholes. The broader context of this issue is that your family living expenses -- including living in a million-dollar home, driving a brand new Escalade and purchasing elective surgery for your wife -- you have made it perfectly clear that it's more important to pacify your wife than comply with my orders."

Kilpatrick will get 120 days credit for time he served in 2008-09 in the Wayne County Jail. That means he will serve 14 months in a Michigan prison before he can apply for parole.

"Sergeant, can you secure the defendant, please," Groner commanded as four sheriff's deputies moved in to handcuff Kilpatrick and led him from the courtroom.
Compuware cuts ties
Immediately following the sentencing, Kilpatrick's employer, Detroit-based Compuware, announced in a release that "Kwame Kilpatrick will be off the Compuware Corporation payroll at the end of the month."

"We don't have any choices. It's an unfortunate situation, and we feel bad for his family, but our hands are tied," the release said.

Kilpatrick had been working as a medical record security software salesman for Covisint, a subsidiary of Compuware. He had been earning $120,000 a year, and the firm had said he had the potential of tripling that figure with bonuses and commissions. However, in more than a year on the job, it is believed Kilpatrick has yet to close a deal.
Appeal coming
Kilpatrick and his lawyers now have 42 days to file an appeal. Kilpatrick's attorney, Michael Alan Schwartz, said he will seek an emergency stay of the sentence from the Michigan Court of Appeals. If granted, Kilpatrick would be free until a decision is made on the appeal. Schwartz said he won't be able to file for the stay right away because Kilpatrick will first have to be processed and placed within the Michigan Department of Corrections system.

Schwartz said the appeal will be based, in part, on Groner's statement that he treated Kilpatrick differently than other defendants. Groner said he was holding Kilpatrick to a higher standard because he was formerly the mayor of Detroit.

"You have asked to be treated no differently than others in the system," Groner said. "The problem is you are different. As an elected official, we expected you to set an example. ... You have failed."
'I sincerely apologize'
Prior to Groner's sentencing, the former mayor pleaded for leniency from the court.

"Whatever I did ... I sincerely apologize," he said. "It's hard to speak to some of the things that have been said about me. Let me start by saying I'm a human being, a real-life, flesh-and-blood person. Often when I hear about myself from the media, I'm extraordinarily confused because it's not me. I'm not the mayor of the city; the city has a new mayor."

Kilpatrick also owned up to what he called mistakes: "I cheated on my wife, your honor. I don't think anyone in this courtroom can know what it's like to be on the global newswire with text messages to someone that your wife is reading, as well.

"Sending your kids to school after you get ridiculed; getting in fights; things that are totally out of their character, and you did it. I accept responsibility for what I did. I spent a whole year feeling an enormous amount of guilt for what I did to my wife, my children and this city. And I still feel it."

Schwartz said after the sentencing that Groner listened to the prosecutors "but ignored all the things the defense has said."

He also said prosecutors, who sought a penalty that exceeded sentencing guidelines of zero to 17 months, and the judge want to "destroy" Kilpatrick because, "they don't like this man."
Lawyers' pleas
Groner announced Kilpatrick's prison sentence after hearing last-minute arguments from Schwartz and Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Athina Siringas.

During the hour-long proceeding, Siringas made an impassioned plea to discontinue the probation of Kilpatrick and send him to jail for up to five years.

"He has intentionally, maliciously hidden assets from the court so they could not be used for restitution," she said. "There's information that he was going to senior citizen houses asking seniors to come forward to pay his restitution. Is that what probation is all about?"

In response, Schwartz, denied the claim the former mayor went to senior citizen homes seeking money and asked Groner to continue his probation.

"These are people who felt in their own hearts that he was a man in distress and wanted to help him," he said. "He didn't even know who they were."Kilpatrick's spokesman, Mike Paul, issued a written statement following the decision, also warning Groner's reasoning in the sentencing could "come back to bite him in an appeal."

"With this sentence, former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was clearly not treated equal to all citizens under the law," he said. "As a result, treating him differently is unconstitutional."

Before today's sentencing, Groner hinted at incarceration last month, warning the former mayor to have his affairs in order when he returned today to Frank Murphy Hall of Justice.

Groner found Kilpatrick guilty of hiding finances from the court, in violation of the terms of his probation, which allowed him to live in lavish style in Texas. Groner had authority to imprison Kilpatrick for any amount of time up to the maximum five years for the obstruction of justice charges Kilpatrick pleaded guilty to in 2008 in connection with the text message scandal.

Kilpatrick's lawyers had said any time behind bars could cost the man's job, which it ultimately did, and would end any hope of paying the city $1 million restitution. So far, Kilpatrick has paid about $140,000 of his restitution with three and a half years to go before he's supposed to have it paid off.