Detroit’s former mayor faces corruption trial

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick walks to federal court on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012 in Detroit during jury selection for his corruption trial. The trial begins Friday, Sept. 21, 2012 in Detroit. If convicted he could go to prison for 10 years. /AP Photo/Detroit News, David Coates

DETROIT — As Detroit residents fled one of the nation’s most-distressed cities in waves, then-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick enriched himself and his allies by rigging public contracts, shaking down businessmen and pocketing hundreds of thousands of dollars, the government alleges.

A jury will hear that damning portrayal of the flashy, charismatic former leader, who’s already spent more than a year in prison in an unrelated case, when he returns to federal court Friday to face a slew of corruption charges.

Kilpatrick’s previous 14-month prison term followed a probation violation after his 2008 conviction for lying from the witness stand about an extramarital affair later revealed in sexually explicit text messages. If the jury finds him guilty in the corruption case, he could go back behind bars for more than a decade.

The 100-page indictment describes him muscling contractors, rewarding pals and repeatedly reaping illegal benefits — cash, travel, golf, even yoga — while running a city that struggled more than most during the economic downturn.

“What is extraordinary here is just the volume of evidence, the breadth of the indictment,” said David Steingold, a defense attorney not involved in the federal case. “I can’t speak to it, but it looks as though they’re just trying to overwhelm Mr. Kilpatrick. They’re trying to throw so much mud at him.”

The charges appear daunting: racketeering conspiracy, extortion, bribery, fraud, false tax returns and tax evasion.

Kilpatrick, who now lives in Grand Prairie, Texas, has declared his innocence, most recently in August during a 90-minute session with reporters. He called the government’s case “irresponsible” and “horrible.”

“Was I corrupt? Absolutely not,” said Kilpatrick, wearing a tailored suit and cufflinks, his sartorial trademark when he was at City Hall.

Prosecutors, of course, are prepared to offer a different story — and they’ll have help. The trial will resemble a Kilpatrick Cabinet meeting as many longtime associates who held high-ranking city jobs testify against him.

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