Kwame Kilpatrick's fall reminiscent of a textbook Greek tragedy
What Could Have Been
One name that was not mentioned - someone who at one time might have been on the top of list of replacements for Senator Carl Levin - is that of former Detroit mayor, now convicted felon, Kwame Kilpatrick.
Standing well over 6 feet tall and in excess of 200 pounds, former football player, State Representative and former Mayor of Motown, Kilpatrick once seemed larger than life. His charisma, charm, and smile could fill a room on an even grander scale than his physical girth.
Kwame Kilpatrick, came from a political family. I knew both his parents, his mother, former Michigan Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks-Kilpatrick, and his father, Bernard (Bernie) Kilpatrick, a former Assistant County Executive during the Edward H. McNamara Administration (Wayne County, Michigan County Executive, 1987-2002).
Bernie and I were both elected to the Wayne County Charter Commissions in the early 80' representing Detroit.
Kwame got his charm, smile, and sense of political acumen from both parents. I met young Kwame before he sought elective office and came away from each encounter thinking “here is a young man that is going places."
At the time, I did not imagine "going places" would mean eventually resigning as Mayor, going to jail for perjury, and being sent back to jail for parole violations, ultimately found guilty on 24 counts and now facing "going away" to prison for 20 years or longer.
Truly disgraced, the former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick fits the definition of a Greek Tragedy defined as (in ancient Greek theatre): “A play in which the protagonist, usually a man of importance and outstanding personal qualities, falls to disaster through the combination of a personal failing and circumstances with which he cannot deal.”
Kilpatrick's mayorship was plagued by numerous scandals and continuous accusations of corruption. He eventually resigned after being charged with 10 felony counts, including perjury and obstruction of justice. Disgraced, he was sentenced to four months in jail after pleading guilty to reduced charges. With time off awarded for good behavior as a county inmate, he was released on probation after serving just 99 days.
Cue in the other shoe dropping: On May 25, 2010, he was sentenced to 18 months to 5 years in prison for violating his probation.
He found himself again fighting for his freedoms in Federal Court and lost. March 11, 2013 was not a good day for him. Kilpatrick was convicted on 24 of 30 counts, including five counts of extortion, racketeering, bribery and several mail, wire, and tax fraud.
The federal prosecutor called what took place during the former mayor’s term a "pattern of extortion, bribery and fraud". Jurors convicted the former Mayor and his friend and co-defendent, contractor Bobby Ferguson, of federal racketeering and other charges, but only convicted Kilpatrick's father Bernard on one tax charge.
The jury appeared not to totally wrap his father, Bernard up in the "sins" of the son.
The former mayor will be going away to federal prison for a long time — up to 20 years. His pedigree, charisma, and smile will do him little good there.
Guilty. The Greek tragedy’s final curtain has fallen on a man who at one time had the world at his fingertips... Mayor. Potential U.S. Senator. Future U.S. President? All traded in for a prison number.
Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel noted the sad day: “You have a very prominent public official. This guy had a tremendous opportunity ahead of him. He was a very unique brand and he tarnished that brand with what he did," Hackel said.
Long serving Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson lamented " There is tragedy and pain at many levels. Detroit's long, dark nightmare is finally over. Kwame Kilpatrick's is just beginning as he sits in prison for years to come and dreams of what might have been".
Justice has been served. Imagine, what could have been. Tragic.
Tom Watkins lead two major departments of state government: mental health and education. He was president and CEO of the economic council in Palm Beach County, FL. He currently is a business and education consultant in the US and China and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org