Thursday, September 4, 2008

Detroit Mayor Pleads - Commentary

The media is reporting that Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick will plead guilty (see below). Looking at the plea reported by the press, one can understand why he would plead guilty.  The risk of trial can be enormous, both in possible punishment, cost of legal counsel fees, and personal family and psychological costs.  This plea offers finality to the situation - something that will probably help the mayor and those around him move on with their lives.  It removes the uncertainly that has probably been hanging over his head for some time now. For the government, the resolution allows them to move onto the next case and report a statistic of conviction.

Some will likely claim the sentence is too light, and others will argue that the conviction he now bears is too heavy. But even when the judicial system offers some precision, such as the cases operating under the federal sentencing guidelines, many are unhappy.

Here, this state case provides a resolution that demonstrates that a state can investigate and prosecute state officials. The federal government should take note of this, as they are often quick to step in and prosecute state corruption. 

The case also demonstrates the importance of the press and investigative reporting.  Without the press, one has to wonder the extent to which this case would have happened. With a diminishing press nationwide, it raises concerns about the future of the ability of the people to have a watchdog on certain government conduct.

Cory Williams & Ed White, Atlanta Jrl Constitution, Detroit mayor agrees to plead guilty, resign

M. L. Elrick, Jim Schaefer, Joe Swickward, Ben Schmitt, Detroit Free Press, Mayor: 'I Lied Under Oath' - He'll resign, serve 120 days in jail, pay $ 1 M restitution

(esp)

Addendum - Susan Saulny, New York Times, Detroit Mayor Pleads Guilty, Agrees to Resign

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/whitecollarcrime_blog/2008/09/detroit-mayor-p.html

Settlement | Permalink

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Comments

Could you explain what he actually did to warrant 'corruption' charges?

I've read a news story, which implied he is going to jail for 8 months, and paying the city $1 million (!!!), and his crime (his 'corruption') was lying about dirty emails to his mistress. Is that really all it was?

Sk

Posted by: Sk | Sep 4, 2008 10:21:36 AM

I live here. I've been following the corruption here for years.

He has always had an air of elitism and a lot of politicians should note that they are not invincible.

I think it is crucial that he will serve time for his two offenses - perjury and shoving the officer serving the warrant. Lots of people will claim he got off easy, and I agree 4 months isn't very long, but the critical piece is that he serves time as a demonstration to all that everyone must obey the law.

I've lived here for 40+ years. Please understand that Detroit is a bubbling cauldron of anger. If a situation where the mayor was given a free pass on breaking the law, there *would* have been major issues with lawlessness in this city. There would have broken out a lot of civil disobedience because a lot less law enforcement would have gone on. I'm serious. People from police to waiters have made comments that "If he gets away with it, so should I." That does not bode well for a civilization. We needed this man convicted. Not just Detroit, but Michigan and probably all of America.

Our way of life is predicated on the belief that witnesses will tell the truth and trials will be fair. Kwami's actions put both of those at risk. He needed to be punished in order to maintain law and order in the future. It just had to happen.

Thankfully, it did.

Posted by: _Jon | Sep 4, 2008 11:02:30 AM

It certainly is a day of mixed emotions here in Detroit. I am saddened that our Mayor, who by all accounts, was blessed with enormous talents, tarnished a once-great City's name even further.
But, the case does prove our legal system works for even the mightiest among us. And believe, Kwame Kilpatrick and his family are mighty in Detroit.
More importantly, this gives Detroit a window of opportunity to turn the corner, and move on from the radical politics of race and income redistribution that most cities moved past in the 1980s.

Posted by: William Girardot | Sep 4, 2008 11:26:34 AM

I wonder if anyone knowledgeable of the situation can comment on exactly where the mayor's bargaining power lay; for the past several days it's been said that he's "in negotiation" with state officials, as if his position somehow is a bargaining chip. Am I being hopelessly naive by asking this?

Posted by: Jim | Sep 4, 2008 1:06:21 PM

"The case also demonstrates the importance of the press and investigative reporting. Without the press, one has to wonder the extent to which this case would have happened. With a diminishing press nationwide, it raises concerns about the future of the ability of the people to have a watchdog on certain government conduct."

This is exactly right, and it's not being noted enough as we rush to celebrate new technologies and cheer the demise of the "mainstream media." I'm not sure the new information "model," the one that sees blogs running the show and amateurs doing journalism, is equipped to do what the Detroit Free Press did in this situation, for instance.

I've been telling friends for years that I'm positively frightened of the day when we no longer have a powerful, institutionalized press. The press isn't perfect, but it's the best tool for rooting out corruption and keeping the proper heat on people and organizations in power. Yet nobody listens. Everyone is too giddy at the idea of an Internet-empowered citizenry, too busy enjoying the schadenfreude of big media's struggles because of some existing beef (animosity over liberal bias or what have you).

The press needs strength to do work like the Free Press did here. That strength is what compels insiders to dish, to make tips stream in, to keep powerful people always looking over their shoulders. Without it, I'm afraid, we're in for a dizzy ride.

Posted by: Christopher | Sep 4, 2008 6:44:38 PM

"The case also demonstrates the importance of the press and investigative reporting. Without the press, one has to wonder the extent to which this case would have happened. With a diminishing press nationwide, it raises concerns about the future of the ability of the people to have a watchdog on certain government conduct."

I agree. Unfortunately, the press in general is diminishing itself by refusing to pursue the truth no matter where it leads. The bias of the "mainstream media" in favor of its political agenda, and against telling the truth and exposing the corruption and misbehavior of the powerful, has been demonstrated repeatedly; see Dan Rather, et al., ad nauseam. The list continues to grow. With each failed attempt at propaganda, as opposed to the truth, the "mainstream media" are turning themselves into laughingstocks, slowly committing suicide, bleating about their dire financial and credibility problems.

The traditional media could regain their strength, financial viability, and moral status by abandoning their role as cynical propagandists and working to find the truth, doing true investigation and reporting to expose the criminal and powerful. I'm disheartened to see little evidence of it.

The saving grace is the blogosphere, which, in its imperfect way, is doing the job abandoned by the "mainstream media". The Internet provides a place for insiders to dish, for tips to stream in, and to keep powerful people looking over their shoulders, as Jim says. I would love it if the "mainstream media" would reclaim the job, but seeing the tenacity with which they bitterly cling to lies, omissions, and propaganda, I suspect it's already too late...

Posted by: Phil | Sep 5, 2008 9:35:11 AM

"Some will likely claim the sentence is too light" Are you kidding me? This was settled behind closed doors. You or I would never get off so easy...

Posted by: Settlement | Mar 10, 2010 7:10:16 AM

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