After five months of trial testimony from over 80 witnesses, the fate of perhaps Detroit’s biggest corruption trial rests in the hands of the jury. Nine women and three men will begin deliberations on Tuesday.
The case involving former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard, and friend and former city contractor Bobby Ferguson has become the center of controversy. Defendants face up to 20-30 years in prison, with numerous charges that include everything from racketeering and conspiracy to extortion. It is alleged that Kilpatrick and Ferguson swapped millions in contracts in exchange for kickbacks. Tremendous speculation surrounds Kilpatrick’s Civic Fund, which prosecutors accuse the former mayor of using for personal and political spending. The defense team refutes such claims insisting that Kilpatrick’s extra cash was a result of savings and gifts. They also assert that many witnesses were “bought and paid for”.
It seems that everyone had something to say during the trial. Though the defendants did not themselves take the stand, key witnesses included a top former mayoral aide, a mayoral fundraiser, and a former contractor at the city’s convention center. The bulk of the prosecution’s evidence relied heavily on text messages, bank checks, federal wiretaps and surveillance video.
Whatever the outcome of the trial, one thing is for sure. It has drained Detroit, and not just literally. Let’s not just talk about the unnecessary money spent, but rather consider it’s affects from within and outside the city limits.
The corruption case has thrust Detroit into a less than stellar national spotlight. Though it may not be the first thing that comes to mind with out-of-towners, it has certainly played on our widespread reputation. Not only has it challenged what others think of us, it’s also affected how we view ourselves. The cloud of corruption is one that has residents less and less trustful of local politicians. Add that to the cash crunch and murder rates. It’s a recipe for disaster, and one that’s been cooking for far too long.
Detroiters are looking for an outlet, and hopefully the culmination of one of the city’s most striking low points will usher in a new, heightened morale.
It is time to close this chapter, and put the past behind us. Whatever the outcome, our city must move on.
Follow Britney Spear on Twitter @missbritneysp