Not long after Detroit’s disgraced ex-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years for essentially running the city as his own personal piggy bank and playpen, Kilpatrick’s supporters rushed to the streets – and Twitter and Facebook – proclaiming that their hero had been done wrong. In their eyes, this all was a horrible injustice inflicted on a man who simply made a few mistakes that were certainly no worse than many criminals who had caused much more harm.
Just this weekend when I joined some friends for a small social gathering to watch the Bradley vs Marquez fight on HBO, the host threw out the question of what everyone thought about the verdict.
“He didn’t kill anybody,” a woman said. “I think the sentence was outrageously long.”
I bit my lip and kept my mouth shut because I just didn’t feel like opening up the can of emotions I knew would become unleashed if I said what I was really thinking. I’ve been getting together with this same crew to watch the fights for years, and they’re a good bunch. Besides, we were already watching one fight, so why start another one right there in my friend’s living room? I did notice him watching me for my reaction, but I just shook my head.
I used to be a huge fan of Kilpatrick. My wife and I both were huge fans. I supported him when he ran the first time, and I supported him the second time as well. To this day I still believe he is one of the most gifted individuals I have ever had the opportunity to meet personally. Kwame Kilpatrick was a brilliant and greedy young man who threw it all away. He is not the victim of a racist conspiracy against black men, nor is he the poster child for 500 years of oppression against African Americans, as was suggested by local activist Minister Malik Shabazz.
“I think the judge could have been merciful. I think I would have liked to have seen the judge to look at the good that the man did and that he has a family,” Shabazz was quoted as saying in the Detroit News.
With all due respect, every convict in prison has a family. As for mercy, and comparing Kilpatrick’s sentence to lesser sentences received by others in the criminal justice system who commit murder, etc., I wouldn’t argue that judicial system is broken. I think that’s an accepted fact. But if we can accept that the system is broken and has been broken for a long time, then we should also accept that the system didn’t break down just for Kilpatrick – if it broke down at all, which I don’t think it did. Plus no judge worth a nickel makes his or her decision based on how many years some other convict received in some other unrelated case. That’s just not how it goes.
And in Kilpatrick’s case, we need to remember that this is someone who enriched himself and his buddies at the expense of a city that was – and is – flat broke. And if anyone knew how broke this city was (as he was ripping it off) then Kilpatrick knew, because Kilpatrick is many things but stupid is not one of them. He ripped off Detroit with a wink and a smile, and with eyes wide open.
That’s something I can never accept, and will take me a long time to forgive.