More Troubles For Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick

Kwame Kilpatrick heads back to court later this week for a hearing that will decide whether he has violated his probation. Kilpatrick has failed to make a payment on the 1-million-dollar restitution he owes to the city of Detroit, related to corruption charges. He may also face federal scrutiny; the FBI reportedly believes that he received thousands of dollars in bribes while in office. Host Lynn Neary speaks with reporter Jim Schaefer of the Detroit Free Press about Kilpatrick’s legal troubles.

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LYNN NEARY, host:

Now we have an update for you about former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. He heads back to court later this week for a hearing that will decide whether or not Kilpatrick has violated his probation. Kilpatrick failed to make a payment on the $1 million restitution he owes to the city of Detroit. But that's not the only trouble the former mayor is facing. He's also the focus of a federal corruption investigation. The FBI believes Kilpatrick turned the mayoral office into a criminal enterprise that amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars. The case could result in racketeering charges. Here with us now is Jim Schaefer of the Detroit Free Press, who's been reporting this story. Welcome to the program, Jim.

Mr. JIM SCHAEFER (Detroit Free Press): Thank you for having me, Lynn.

NEARY: Well, there's also a lot of swirling around Kilpatrick right now. Let's start with that hearing on Friday. What's the significance of it?

Mr. SCHAEFER: Yeah. It's a bad week to be Kwame Kilpatrick.

NEARY: Hmm.

Mr. SCHAEFER: On Friday, he is due in Wayne County Circuit Court here in Detroit, where a judge will arraign him on a violation of probation warrant. We expect that to happen, anyway. And it's possible the former mayor might be headed back to jail because he failed, in the judge's opinion, to meet a deadline of last Friday to pay $79,000 back toward his $1 million balance in the text message scandal. He was ordered to pay restitution to the city.

NEARY: He's also the focus of a large-scale FBI corruption probe. A dozen people have already been charge in the investigation. How long has it being underway? How does Kilpatrick play into this?

Mr. SCHAEFER: Yeah, that's correct. We had a big story in Sunday's Free Press about - another reporter, Jennifer Dixon, and I did this story. And what we found was that the former mayor - who has been under investigation for quite a while now. This is a wide-ranging public corruption investigation in Detroit that's gone back several years. And as you mentioned earlier, they have indicted about a dozen people already, many former associates and appointees of the former mayor.

And now we just learned that the FBI in Detroit has secured the cooperation of a witness who claims that he gave Kwame Kilpatrick directly up to $100,000 in 2002 when Kwame Kilpatrick was the mayor of Detroit. This man also claims that he gave $290,000 to the mayor's father, Bernard Kilpatrick, and $30,000 to one of the mayor's right-hand men at that time. This was an exchange, the witness tells the FBI, for lucrative contracts at the city's convention center.

NEARY: So, if they do bring charges again Kilpatrick, what would they be?

Mr. SCHAEFER: Well, even more daunting than what I just mentioned to you is the feds, we've learned, are pursuing a racketeering case against the former mayor. This would be a RICO charge. This is the law that was created in 1970 to go after the mafia in the United States, and indeed was used on several occasions to bring down mafia families in the 1980s. This is a much more serious count than we've seen so far in these investigations, because there is a penalty of up to 20 years in jail on each charge if there is a conviction. Now, again, the mayor has not been charged - the former mayor - neither has his father, but many close associates and friends of both of those men have been.

NEARY: It was interesting when I just heard you refer him as the mayor, you know, that he still has that...

(Soundbite of laughter)

NEARY: And it made me wonder, you know, is making me wonder: What are people in Detroit thinking about all this, now that...

Mr. SCHAEFER: Well, you know, even the former mayor himself tells people that he wants Detroit to get beyond him. You know, let's move on people. The mayor -I said it again.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCHAEFER: The former mayor took his family and moved to a very nice suburb outside of Dallas last year after he got out of the jail for his crimes in the text message scandal. And he says he's trying to move on with his life, and that people should forget about him and get back to the work of rebuilding Detroit. But at the same time, the man can't seem to keep his name out of the news. As I mentioned, it's a very bad week for him, and it could get worse.

NEARY: Jim Schaefer is a reporter with the Detroit Free Press. He joined us from member station WDET. Thanks Jim, good talking to you.

Mr. SCHAEFER: Thanks for having me.

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