Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick should spend time in jail


The prosecution and defense in the “Kwame Kilpatrick matter” are still trying to negotiate a plea deal regarding the pending felony charges.  Prosecutor Kym Worthy has been standing firm on including jail time in any plea agreement.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is facing 8 felony charges related to his alleged purjury and obstruction of justice. The charges include perjury, conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice and misconduct in office.

These allegations followed a secret $8.4-million settlement of a police whistleblower lawsuit and an ensuing text massage scandal. It is alleged that the settlement was crafted by city lawyers and Kilpatrick to ensure that scandalous text messages between Kilpatrick and his former chief of staff, Christine Beatty, would not become public. The text messages apparently proved that Kilpatrick and Beatty had committed perjury in the whistelblower trial last year when they denied having an affair with one another. The $8.4 million settlement was little more than hush money.

The negotiations were in full swing over the weekend, with the defense offering to plead guilty to “several” felonies. The plea deal would have included 300 hours of community service, probation for up to five years, a six-figure restitution payment by Kilpatrick, forfeiture of his government pension, but no jail time.

The latest report is that the prosecution is offering a deal that includes six months in jail. If Kilpatrick delays accepting the plea deal, some say the amount of jail time is going to continue to escalate.

When it comes to fraud and crimes of deception, jail and prison sentences have a place in the system. However, it’s my opinion that they are of limited usefulness in white collar crime cases. As I discussed in this article, the difference between a five-year sentence and a ten-year sentence is likely meaningless to an executive who commits fraud.

Yet the general presence of a prison sentence can have a deterrent effect on some people who might consider committing fraud. In this case, I think that time in jail is important to send a message to people.

Detroit has plenty of problems with crime and money, and the abuse of the office of mayor by Kwame Kilpatrick must carry severe consequences. The people of Detroit deserve to have him held fully accountable, and they deserve to see him punished in a way that sends a message to him and other would-be abusers of their government positions.

In my opinion, community service, probation, and restitution just aren’t enough. These things don’t hurt Kilpatrick enough. But taking away his freedom just might send a message to him and others like him.

I’m not saying that he should spend years in prison, although I think that such a sentence might not be out of line considering the lives that were affected (financially and otherwise) by his actions. However, at least some time in jail is necessary to send a clear and firm message.

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