A defiant Kwame Kilpatrick is not giving up on getting out of prison, this time asking for the entire U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals bench to consider his appeal.
A three-judge panel from the 6th Circuit refused to grant the former Detroit mayor a new trial last month, upholding his public corruption conviction and 28-year prison sentence. So now Kilpatrick is asking for what is known as an “en banc” review, which means he wants all of the judges who sit on the 6th Circuit to hear his case. An Atlanta RICO lawyer represent clients in racketeering cases involving bribery, money laundering, and corruption.
In a Friday court filing, Kilpatrick repeated his long-held belief that his trial lawyers had a conflict of interest and were ineffective. The three-judge appellate panel already ruled that Kilpatrick never proved that, nor did he prove that federal agents prejudiced him with their hearsay testimony before the jury, as Kilpatrick has argued.
Kilpatrick, who was convicted in 2013 following a sixth-month trial, is hoping the entire 6th Circuit bench sees things differently, claiming he didn't get a fair trial for three reasons:
- He was forced to go to trial with a lawyer he didn't want — and shouldn't have had — due to a conflict of interest.
- The judge erred in allowing two FBI agents to offer their opinions to jurors about what Kilpatrick's and others' text messages meant and how texts and phone calls showed the ex-mayor was involved in crooked contracts.
- The nearly $4.7 million he was ordered to pay in restitution was not authorized under federal law. The 6th Circuit has ruled in Kilpatrick’s favor on this issue.
Kilpatrick's appeal focuses heavily on his longtime defense attorney James Thomas, who Kilpatrick tried to get thrown off the case at the start of his trial, citing a conflict of interest: Thomas and his associate were working for a law firm that was suing Kilpatrick over the same alleged crimes of which Thomas was defending him. A Chicago RICO lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.
At Kilpatrick's request, Thomas asked U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds to withdraw from the case. But Edmunds denied it, noting that when Kilpatrick ran out of money and couldn't afford a lawyer, he requested Thomas, so he got him. Edmunds also found that Thomas had been a good and effective lawyer for Kilpatrick.
Thomas represented Kilpatrick throughout the six-month trial that ended with Kilpatrick getting convicted in March 2013 on 24 counts for crimes including racketeering, extortion and bribery.
Two months after the guilty verdict, Kilpatrick officially dumped Thomas, telling Edmunds that "a grave error" occurred in his case and that he needed a new lawyer.
Thomas agreed that it was time for him to step down.
Edmunds appointed Harold Gurewitz to handle Kilpatrick's case.
The prosecution, meanwhile, has scoffed at all of Kilpatrick's arguments.
"He cannot show that, absent the alleged (attorney) conflict, the result of (his trial) would have been different," Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Goetz has written in court documents. A Milwaukee RICO lawyer is following this story closely.
Bobby Ferguson, Kilpatrick's longtime contractor friend and codefendant, also was convicted of multiple crimes. Ferguson, who got a 21-year prison sentence, also appealed his conviction, but the 6th Circuit upheld his conviction.
Historically, federal appeals courts have sided with prosecutors, upholding convictions roughly 95% of the time, according to the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.