10/03/2013 03:23 pm ET Updated Oct 03, 2013

Kwame Kilpatrick, Bobby Ferguson Should Be Sentenced To 28 Years Or More, Prosecutors Say


Federal prosecutors today asked that former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his partner Bobby Ferguson be sentenced to 28 years in prison or more for organizing a "historic and unprecedented extortion scheme" from City Hall.

The sentencing memos, authored by four assistant U.S. attorneys for Michigan's Eastern District, said Ferguson should be sentenced to 14 to 28 years, while Kilpatrick should spend "at least" 28 years in prison for what prosecutors called his "widespread and corrosive breach of trust" during his six years in office.

The sentencing memo for Kilpatrick noted that his crimes while in office exceeded all other state and city corruption cases they surveyed, including former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich, who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for bribery and extortion charges in 2011.

"Kwame Kilpatrick was entrusted by the citizens of Detroit to guide their city through one of its most challenging periods. The city desperately needed resolute leadership. Instead it got a mayor looking to cash in on his office through graft, extortion and self-dealing," the memo recommending Kilpatrick's sentence read.

Prosecutors said that Kilpatrick used the mayor's office to steer $127 million in contracts to Ferguson, a contractor and head of Ferguson Enterprises. Kilpatrick was convicted of 24 charges, including racketeering, extortion, attempted extortion, bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud and filing false tax returns, after a five-month federal trial that concluded in March. Ferguson, who was convicted by a jury of nine out of 11 counts he faced during trial, was said to have extorted at least $73 million worth of contracts and fees during the Kilpatrick administration.

"While Ferguson relied on Kilpatrick to back up his threats, Ferguson drove the extortion machine," prosecutors said in the 30-page sentencing memorandum for Ferguson. "With ruthless abandon, he bullied local businessmen and women, threatening to cancel their contracts and promising to visit financial harm upon them if they did not accede to his demands."

The memorandum alleges that, while Ferguson's defense team portrayed him as an African-American businessman who advocated for other minority-owned businesses in the city, his monopoly on contracting work handicapped other black-owned contracting companies in the city -- and even put a few of them out of business.

"Ferguston's text messages with Kilpatrick revealed that far from promoting other African-American businesses, he actively undermined them, then laughed at their attempts at getting redress from the city administration," the sentencing memo reads.

Kilpatrick left the mayor's office in 2008 after pleading guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice related to a text message sex scandal with a former employee. He served about a year in jail for those crimes and agreed to pay the city of Detroit $1 million in restitution.

The two men have been housed at a prison in Mlian, Mich., since the trial concluded. They will be sentenced on Oct. 10 by U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds in Detroit, the Detroit Free Press reported.

"Given these facts and the sheer volume of his ill-gotten gains -- over $73 million in city contracts -- Ferguson is deserving of a sentence at or near that of Kilpatrick," the attorneys concluded.

The prosecutors reserved their harshest words for Detroit's former mayor, for abusing his position of public trust. And they said the city of Detroit, currently mired in bankruptcy court, would move forward "in spite of its former leader."

"For Kilpatrick similarly to move forward," prosecutors wrote, "he will need to recognize and accept the true nature of his wrongdoings -- how many people he let down and exploited, the enormous consequences of his criminal choices and the fact that he was not the victim but the cause of the painful circumstances now faces."