The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a blow to Kwame Kilpatrick, denying his appeal.
The ex-mayor's conviction and sentence will stand and FOX 2's M.L. Elrick weighs in. Elrick shared the 2009 Pulitzer Prize with former partner Jim Schaefer covering Kilpatrick's corruption case for the Detroit Free Press.
Q: What were the grounds for the appeal?
Elrick: "This is a fight he's had almost since before he was convicted. He tried to convince the judge in this case that his lawyer had a conflict of interest and as the case developed, FBI agents were allowed to give extensive testimony about the meaning of text messages, some of which may have seemed somewhat vague. Under the law you can provide lay testimony where as I know this material because I've studied it so closely so I could interpret it, Kilpatrick and his appellate lawyers argued they gave expert testimony, where they weren't just giving their opinion but telling you this is what it means almost beyond a doubt.
"(Because of) that, Mr. Kilpatrick said that led to a biased trial and he wanted to go back to court and do it all again."
Q: His defense attorney that he claimed, had a conflict of interest?
Elrick: "And this was known to everybody. In fact, before the case went before a jury, Mr. Kilpatrick signed a form saying I acknowledge there's a conflict here. He claimed later 'I didn't really pay attention to it or know the extent of the conflict was.' This was an issue that was hashed out before the case got under trial. He tried to tell the judge 'I want a new lawyer' just before they started this case and she said, 'Mr. Kilpatrick, you've had a lot of time to raise this issue. I'm concerned that what you're doing is essentially trying to buy more time, trying to stall, so we're going to go forward with the trial.'
"The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is the first stop once you're convicted, they didn't find an issue here. It goes to the Supreme Court and very few of these cases are taken up and decided you know what, we're not going to take this one up because it doesn't have some larger Constitutional ramification. This is a unique issue to this case, there's not a problem with it and it doesn't speak to some deep injustice or something that, you know, might mean something for the country."
Q: It does not set a precedent?
Q: So is this case closed, done?
Elrick: "All Mr. Kilpatrick has to do now, is keep making the little hash marks on the wall at the federal prison at El Reno. He got a 28-year sentence. With good behavior he'll probably do 25 years which means sometime around 2038 he'll finally be free to rejoin his family."
Q: But we're also hearing that his family is asking President Obama to commute his sentence. Any chance of that?
Elrick: "There is no chance of that. For one matter, you have to do so much time before you're eligible for a commutation or a pardon and that's not going to happen. One reason why is because I think Barack Obama doesn't want to be connected to Mr. Kilpatrick, and I don't know what the feeling is between the two men. They did a few things together when Mr. Obama was rising through the ranks of the Illinois legislature trying to be elected as senator.
"But you may remember in 2008 Barack Obama was on track to about the first black president in United States history. To do that, he had to win Michigan. To win Michigan, he had to win Detroit. Mr. Kilpatrick did not resign until December of 2008, just before the election. Barack Obama was almost never seen in Detroit because he couldn't take the chance of being in a picture with Kwame Kilpatrick because the other side would use that to basically destroy Obama and so he couldn't come to the blackest city in America because he didn't want to be tainted by the mayor.
"Once the mayor resigned, we saw more of Obama and of course the last eight years went a lot better for the president than the mayor."