Dear Kwame Kilpatrick,
In the Adele song “Rolling in the Deep” the singer laments to a lost love “We could have had it all”. As I listened to Federal Judge Nancy Edmunds hand down your sentence I thought those words were appropriate. I was saddened by your sentence, not because I don’t think you deserve it but because of the promise you threw away. You were a young black man who had an opportunity not afforded to many. You had the chance to make a real difference. You were the dream of Dr. King. But like many black men of your generation, you squandered your future opting to do wrong rather than remain on the straight, narrow path.
It wasn’t just about the money. It was about trust. The worst criminals are those who prey on the weak. You and your minions are no better than the common thief who robs little old ladies on check day. You took advantage of citizens who could not get away from what was happening in the city. You took food out of the mouths of the children of people who were trying to stay and make a living in the city of Detroit. You took away the livelihood of people who put you in office. Every time someone marks your name in the voting booth, they are taking your hand and saying “I trust you. I trust you will take care of me and those I care about.” You failed to protect that trust.
People knew if they didn’t pay, they didn’t play. Those who wouldn’t pay were cast aside. Most of those who couldn’t pay were simply put out of business. You treated the City of Detroit like it was Bank of Kilpatrick, lining the pockets of your family and friends without regard to the needs of the people. You were like a spider, weaving a giant web that ensnared everyone near you. No one was safe from the damage of SuperStorm Kwame. You thought you were untouchable. You tried to have your cake, forced other to give you their cake and ate it all too. You lied over and over again including under oath. Your lawyer smarts didn’t tell you that liars eventually get caught. You ruined the careers of most who crossed your path. From police captains to City Council representatives to Attorneys to contractors to your Chief of Staff, all were left in your wake and you never looked back. You even managed to get your Mother removed from her job in Congress. But the saddest victims of all are your children. No matter how hard you try to shield them your misdeeds are public knowledge and they will carry your name for the rest of their lives. Instead of being able to proudly say “My Dad was Mayor of Detroit”, they will say “My Dad is in prison”. In this electronic age they will know how you carried on with women who were not their mother and they will be able to read the proof of those affairs through the text massages that are now public record. They will read how you manipulated everyone around you to get them to do your dirty work. They will see the man you really are.
As you go to prison to begin your 28 year sentence, I hope you think about the true cost of your misdeeds. I hope that knowledge will weigh as heavily on you as your misdeeds weigh on the city you left behind. I hope when your sons come to visit, you don’t glorify your stay in prison by talking up all of the great things you are doing but instead you express to them how you are going to miss teaching them to drive, their basketball games, their first dates, their proms, their high school and college graduations, their weddings, the births of their children and all of the important moments in their lives. I hope you will tell them how you will not be there to take care of their grandparents as they grow old. I hope you will teach them that what you did is no way to take care of the woman you vowed your life to. I hope you will express to them that the only way to avoid your fate is honest, hard work and never betraying those who trust you.
As the prison door closes behind you, hopefully the door will close on this terrible chapter in the city’s history. Those left in your wake are trying to pick themselves up and move on. As you sleep each night and wake each morning in your tiny cell and prison wear I hope it is a stark reminder for you that you “could have had it all”…..