Detroit — Kwame Kilpatrick was contrite this morning as he addressed Wayne Circuit Judge David Groner prior to his sentencing for probation violation.
“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.”
Moments before, Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Athina Siringas made an impassioned plea to discontinue the probation of Kilpatrick and send him to jail for up to five years.
“What has the defendant done … to continue probation?” Siringas asked Groner. “His behavior is the same behavior that brought him before the court initially,” Siringas said. “The defendant was convicted of perjury … and that’s exactly what he’s done (since being released from jail).”
“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? Is that the kind of conduct that should be rewarded with more probation? The defendant has continued to live like a millionaire while owing a million dollars. Average citizens tighten their belts and pay their bills.”
Kilpatrick’s attorney, Michael Alan Schwartz, denied the claim the former mayor went to senior citizen homes seeking money and asked Groner to continue his probation.
“We hear all kinds of claims designed to appeal to emotions,” Schwartz said. “Mr. Kilpatrick has been on probation now for a year and a half, and he’s working toward making that restitution.”
Schwartz said people have made Kilpatrick’s restitution payments without his knowledge.
“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.
“He has conducted himself — generally speaking — to be appropriately acting as someone on probation. For the prosecutor to claim that he’s thumbing his nose at the court is wrong.
“Putting Mr. Kilpatrick into prison does no good for anyone,” Schwartz said. “We don’t have a person here who I believe acted out of malicious intent, as claimed by the prosecutor. There may be things that Mr. Kilpatrick failed to do because he mistakenly did them.” text continues after gallery:
Kilpatrick’s sentencing hearing began at 9:35 this morning. 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 could hammer Kilpatrick as Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy suggested Monday in a presentence memorandum that advised the judge to send him to prison for two to five years.
Kilpatrick’s spokesman, Mike Paul, released a statement late Monday, making a last-minute case to keep the mayor out of jail.
“Mr. Kilpatrick should be allowed to return home to Texas to continue working and paying his restitution over the next 4 out of 5 years, like the court originally stated,” Paul said. “To date, Mr. Kilpatrick has paid over $140,000 in restitution — both on time and according to the probation department, which leads in paying restitution.
“Treating him differently than others paying restitution in the system in Detroit is both unfair and unjust. True justice is supposed to be blind.”
Groner found Kilpatrick guilty of hiding finances from the court, in violation of the terms, which allow him to live in lavish style in Texas. Groner has 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.
Short of prison, Groner could restructure Kilpatrick’s terms of probation, including ordering him back from Texas to live in Michigan where agents can more tightly supervise compliance with court demands. Or, the judge could get creative with overnight jail-time and daily work release and weekends behind bars.
Prosecutors are seeking a penalty that exceeds the sentencing guidelines of zero to 17 months. Such a sentence would put Kilpatrick in prison, not the Wayne County Jail where he spent 99 days in 2008-09.
Prosecutors complained Monday that Kilpatrick has portrayed himself as a victim, that he says he wants to avoid incarceration so he can continue paying restitution. But prosecutors argued, “The defendant’s conduct cannot go unpunished with a false hope that the defendant will now pay restitution or abide by the court’s orders when he failed to do so in the past.”
Prosecutors concluded their filing by saying Kilpatrick has “learned nothing” and would be “taught nothing” unless he is punished.
“Defendant continues to dangle the illusionary promise that he will pay more restitution to the city of Detroit, but how much and at what cost?” the prosecution memo to the judge asks.
“This court cannot reward lies, deceit and fraud with more probation,” they wrote.
Kilpatrick’s lawyers have said any time behind bars could cost the man’s job and would end any hope of paying the city $1 million restitution.
“It would destroy Mr. Kilpatrick and his earning potential, which I think has been her (Worthy’s) goal all along,” Schwartz said
Kilpatrick’s lawyers, Schwartz and Dured Daniel Hajji, said in their sentence memorandum that Kilpatrick should remain free so he can continue paying. Going behind bars means he won’t be able to pay.
“Incarceration of the defendant would satisfy those who are Kwame Kilpatrick haters and who feel that there is no punishment too harsh in this case,” the defense memo states. “Those Kilpatrick haters act out of motivations which include elements which are laughable.
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.
“The greater good would best be served by allowing the defendant to continue with his employment and to earn the money which will enable him to pay the restitution to the City of Detroit which has been ordered,” the defense memorandum suggests.
Kilpatrick works as a medical record security software salesman for Covisint, a subsidiary of Detroit-based Compuware. He earns $120,000 a year, and the firm has said he has 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.
Compuware declined comment on Monday.