Defending Kwame Kilpatrick and his father costs taxpayers a fortune

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Today, 7 Action News is learning about how much taxpayers have paid to defend Kwame Kilpatrick and his father Bernard, both of whom were found guilty yesterday by a jury.

Lawyers like Jim Thomas, who represented the ex-mayor, and John Shea who worked for his dad are paid $125 for every hour they spent working on this case.  That's a reduced rate from what they normally charge, because they're court appointed lawyers. 

Today, 7 Action News spoke with attorneys who've worked on mammoth cases like this one to estimate just how much defending Kilpatrick and his father will cost the taxpayers. Much of the expense is racked up during trial: that's when most lawyers, we're told, spend at least 10 hours a day working for their client. 

10 hours billed at $125 an hour means a daily cost of $1,250 per for each lawyer.  Multiply that by the 80 days of this trial—including jury selection—and each man likely billed around $100,000.

But that's only part of the cost. Lawyers worked on this case for more than 18 months before trial began.  Experts we talked to today say a case's total cost is usually between 2 and 3 times what's billed at trial. For the Kilpatricks, that's between $200,000 and $300,000 for each defendant.

That doesn't include all sorts of other expenses, like the hiring expert witnesses, research costs and other expenses.

Yesterday, reporters asked U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade how much the feds spent on prosecuting the "Kilpatrick Enterprise." She said her office couldn't reach a figure, adding that her attorneys salaries are fixed costs and they're not eligible for any overtime.

"It's a hefty price tag but I believe it's worth the price for the honest government that we can restore to the citizens of Detroit," McQuade said.

The feds did spend $112,644 bringing in jury consultant Richard Gabriel from Los Angeles.  He was used heavily during jury selection, telling prosecutors which potential jurors posed risks to their case. 

"In light of the substantial media and public interest surrounding this case, we wanted to do all we could to obtain a fair and impartial jury," said a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney. 

Kilpatrick's friend Bobby Ferguson is the only defendant that didn't bill taxpayers for his defense.

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