Kwame Kilpatrick's ex-fundraiser avoids prison, thanks judge for showing mercy

DETROIT (WXYZ) - As the man she once thought of as a son sits in a prison cell, Emma Bell learned today that she won't have to.

"I truly, truly thank the Judge," Bell said outside court. "I thank Judge Edmunds for being so kind to me."

The 70-year-old former political fundraiser was implicated in the Kilpatrick corruption probe, ultimately pleading guilty to tax evasion and testifying against the man whose campaign war chest she helped fill.  

Under oath during trial, Bell recalled how Kilpatrick asked her to kick back half of her fundraising commissions.  She said she paid the then-mayor more than $200,000 in kickbacks.

She broke down several times on the stand and had to withstand a grueling cross-examination where defense attorneys said she couldn't be trusted. They said that she lied about kickbacks, and used the money to fuel her gambling addiction.

Today, Bell kept her composure before the judge.  She addressed the judge briefly, saying: "I want to thank the court for treating me with dignity.  I just ask for your mercy."

She got it, moments later, as Judge Nancy Edmunds announced there'd be no benefit for locking her up for the 9 to 18 month sentence that government had sought. Instead, she was sentenced to 2 years probation.

"Tonight, I thank God, the friends that stand by me," Bell said. "And believe it or not as I told Mr. Jones, I truly thank the news media for the way you treated me. You treated me with respect."

And with that, Bell walked down Lafayette Avenue a free woman leaving federal court---and the man she once considered family—behind.

Contact Investigator Ross Jones at rjones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466.

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