Kwame Kilpatrick Corruption Trial Begins

The corruption trial of former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick began Friday, CBS News reports. Assistant US Attorney Mark Chutkow told jurors that Kilpatrick lived a luxurious lifestyle using money received from kickbacks and bribes during his seven-year tenure in office.

Chutkow, in a 40-minute overview of the case, also told jurors that Kilpatrick began his career as an enthusiastic rising star but quickly got rich by extorting contractors and duping supporters.

Kilpatrick, who left office on September 18, 2008 because of an unrelated scandal, spent more than a year in prison for a probation violation. He is being charged with racketeering conspiracy, bribery, fraud, extortion, tax evasion, and filing false tax returns. He faces more than 10 years in prison if convicted but insists he is innocent.

His co-conspirators, father Bernard Kilpatrick and best friend Bobby Ferguson, are also on trial. Former Detroit water boss Victor Mercado is also on trial.

A change of venue was denied Thursday after Kilpatrick’s defense attorney argued that it would be impossible for his client to receive a fair trial in Detroit.

Chutkow said Kilpatrick “no longer lived like the citizens he governed” and that the former paid off credit card bills with $280,000 in cash and deposited more than $200,000 into his bank account. He also said Kilpatrick was wearing custom-made suits and traveling luxuriously.

Kilpatrick was imprisoned for 14 months for a probation violation in 2008. He lied from the witness stand about an affair he was having with former Detroit Chief of Staff Christine Beatty. Both were married, and their affair was discovered from over 14,000 text messages on their city-issued Skytel pagers. The two used city funds to have romantic getaways and conspired to fire the Detroit police deputy chief Gary Brown. Kilpatrick pled guilty to two felony counts of obstruction of justice on September 4, 2008.

[Photo credit: Kimberly P. Mitchell, Detroit Free Press]