Update: Washington-based bankruptcy attorney Kevyn Orr was selected as Detroit’s emergency manager on Thursday.
Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is headed back to prison after a federal jury convicted him Monday on multiple charges of racketeering and extortion. City contractor and Kilpatrick friend Bobby Ferguson, and Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard, were also convicted of nine similar counts and one count of filing a false tax return, respectively.
The 42-year-old, once nicknamed the “hip-hop mayor” and considered one of the country’s most promising young politicians, left office in 2008 after he plead guilty to two obstruction of justice charges stemming from his sex scandal involving former chief of staff Christine Beatty. He served one year in jail for those crimes, but Monday’s conviction is much more serious. Kilpatrick was found guilty of 24 of the 30 counts of tax fraud, bribery, RICO, extortion, wire fraud, and more. The RICO charge alone carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
“I am pleased that this long trial has ended and we can finally put this negative chapter in Detroit’s history behind us,” current Detroit Mayor Dave Bing told reporters after the verdict was announced. “It is time for all of us to move forward with a renewed commitment to transparency and high ethical standards in our city government.”
The state of Michigan stands to soon supercede that city government’s judgment with an unelected emergency manager, and Bing himself has taken pains to not stand in the way.
It has been 11 days since Michigan Governor Rick Snyder made that announcement, emphasizing that Detroit couldn’t wait for Bing and city officials to fix the city’s impaired finances. Snyder acknowledged that Detroit had the option of appealing that decision. Last Wednesday, the city council did so, without Bing’s involvement. That decision did not stem the protests against the state’s action, which would make Detroit the tenth–and largest–city to be subjected to emergency management in the history of the state.
One of those protests was led by Rev. Charles Williams, president of Detroit’s chapter of the National Action Network, the organization founded by PoliticsNation host Rev. Al Sharpton. On Sunday’s Melissa Harris-Perry, Rev. Williams, who is also a Baptist pastor in the city, remarked that while “we sprung our clocks forward today, but the governor certainly is just trying to take us back.” He said the problems Detroit has are common across the nation, and that if it allowed to happen there, other major cities may soon find their democratically-elected leaders superceded by their state governments.
Rev. Williams noted the long-term debt of more than $14 million while arguing that the governor is using emergency management to avoid re-negotiating that debt with banks. Melissa Harris-Perry questioned why, if city leaders have failed to deal with Detroit’s financial problems, an emergency manager shouldn’t be appointed. “Should the president come and take over the state of Michigan?” Rev. Williams asked, refererring to the state’s own deficit. “Should the United Nations come take over the United States, since we have high deficits? That’s not how democracy works.”
The issue of race has made the debate even more fraught; Detroit, along with the most populous Michigan cities to have an emergency manager appointed, is majority African-American. Rev. Williams used a familiar term from America’s racial past to describe what is happening. “The reality here is that this financial crisis is a poll tax on Detroiters, and others across the state of Michigan. You know, how can we be in a state where almost 75% of the African-American elected officials won’t have the ability to fulfill their position because they’ll be under emergency management. This is a national crisis.” Rev. Williams appealed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to intervene to halt the emergency manager appointment.
Read Ned Resnikoff’s report on Michigan’s emergency management, out today on msnbc. Also, Harris-Perry took an extensive look at Detroit’s issues on her February 23 show with guests such as “Detroit” author Charlie LeDuff and ESPN columnist Jemele Hill, both city natives. See the video below.