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Was Kwame Kilpatrick's Sentence Too Harsh?

Kwame Kilpatrick in 2008 (Bill Pugliano/Stringer/Getty Images)
Kwame Kilpatrick in 2008 (Bill Pugliano/Stringer/Getty Images)

(The Root) — It is a sentence more associated with murder than political corruption, but many in Detroit say former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick deserved the 28-year sentence he got for kickbacks, bribery, extortion and fraud, which cost the city millions.


Even though a contrite and remorseful Kilpatrick pleaded with the judge for leniency, his detractors say Kilpatrick's arrogant disregard for the city has set Detroit back in its financial recovery and damaged the city's reputation.

"I'm glad that this negative chapter in Detroit's history has finally come to an end for our citizens. Today's sentencing sends a strong message to everyone in public office. As we move forward with Detroit's transformation, honesty, transparency and integrity in city leadership will be paramount," Detroit's Mayor David Bing said, according to the Detroit Free Press.

However, some, like Minister Malik Shabazz, head of Detroit's New Black Panther Party, called the verdict unfair. "The press as a whole has never been fair to the Kilpatrick administration and has not looked at or focused at the good that this mayor was doing," Shabazz said, according to the news site.


Without parole, this sentence could leave Kilpatrick imprisoned until he is in his early 70s. Parole is not common in a federal prison, meaning most prisoners, Kilpatrick included, may serve at least 85 percent of the given sentence, unless an appeal is won and the time lessened.

By way of comparison, The Root has compiled a look at some of the sentences other politicians have been given for their crimes:

* Rod Blagojevich, former governor of Illinois: Last year Blagojevich began serving a 14-year sentence for 18 corruption charges, including trying to sell or trade an appointment to the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by President Barack Obama. He will likely have to serve almost 12 years of that sentence.

* Jesse Jackson Jr., former U.S. congressman (D-Ill.): Earlier this year Jackson was sentenced to 30 months in prison for misusing campaign funds, of which he's expected to serve at least two years.

* Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho): In January, Crapo was sentenced to 180 days in prison — all of which was suspended — for drunk driving. He was also fined $250 and was told to complete an alcohol-education program over the next year.

* Marion Barry, former mayor of Washington, D.C.: In 1990, Barry was sentenced to six months in prison (which he served in full) for drug possession.

* Tom DeLay, former House majority leader (R-Texas): DeLay was found guilty of money-laundering and conspiracy to illegally pass corporate money to Texas candidates in the 2002 elections. He was sentenced to three years in prison in 2011, but never actually started serving any time while his appellate process was ongoing. In September of this year a Texas appeals court overturned his conviction.

* Duke Cunningham, former U.S. congressman (R-Calif.): Just this year Cunningham walked free after serving seven years of an eight-year, four-month sentence for bribery and evading taxes. In 2005 he admitted accepting more than $2 million in bribes from defense contractors, among other crimes that included mail fraud and wire fraud.

* William J. Jefferson, former U.S. congressman (D-La.): Jefferson was sentenced to 13 years in prison in November 2009 for 11 counts of bribery. His case is most infamous for the $90,000 in cash that the FBI seized from his freezer at home. He will most likely serve the customary minimum, which is 85 percent of his given sentence.

* Jim Traficant, former U.S. congressman (D-Ohio): Traficant was released from prison in 2009, having served seven out of eight years on financial-corruption charges. In 2002, Traficant was found guilty of bribery and racketeering and was expelled from Congress.

* David Durenberger, former U.S. senator (R-Minn.): In 1990 Durenberger was denounced by the Senate for misuse of public funds and then disbarred. He received a year of probation.

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