Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s right hand man, Derrick Miller, offered an apology to the city for his role — and the rest of the corrupt administration’s — in a pay for play scheme that got out of control and caused collateral damage.
“As an administration, we want to apologize to the citizens of Detroit for the harm we caused,” Miller said.
Miller talked about the scandal in an exclusive “Michigan Matters” that aired Sunday on CBS 62. It marked his first extensive interview and the only one he will do on the matter. We also talked after that interview.
The scandal that sprung forth during Kilpatrick’s years in office ended with 34 convictions that sent 17 people to prison. That included Kilpatrick, who was sentenced to 28 years in a federal prison, contractor Bobby Ferguson, who received 21 years, and his father, Bernard Kilpatrick, who got 15 months for tax evasion.
Miller, who was Kilpatrick’s chief administrative officer, admitted breaking the law. He also was the star witness for the federal government as he detailed what took place.
As a result, Miller received a lenient sentence by U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds of 12 months in a halfway house in the Washington, D.C. area where he lives. And she gave him 100 years to pay back the $240,000 he owes in back taxes at a rate of $200 a month starting Aug. 1.
He could have received up to 10 years for his crimes, which were bribery and tax evasion.(Carol Cain is Emmy wining senior producer/host of CBS 62’s Emmy-winning “Michigan Matters” which airs on 11:30 am on Sundays. She is pictured with Derrick Miller.)
“I know how extremely difficult this had to have been for you,” Edmunds told Miller during sentencing in late May. “This was a lifelong friend … and testifying against someone as close to you as Kwame Kilpatrick was … it took tremendous courage.
“The city of Detroit has much to thank you for ,” she said. “And to shake their heads at.”
Miller was understandably grateful.
“I can’t thank Judge Nancy Edmunds enough for her sentence of a halfway house rather than incarceration,” Miller told me. “She saw something in me. I wasn’t a bad person, and I appreciated it.
“Now I just have to start paying that restitution and work on putting this all behind me.”
Miller, now 44, said he felt bad about testifying against Kilpatrick.
They had been his best friends since attending Cass Tech High School and Kilpatrick had been best man at his wedding.
“I did what I had to do on the advice of my lawyer, Byron Pitts,” said Miller.
Kilpatrick, Miller and Christine Beatty, who was Kilpatrick’s chief of staff, were classmates at Cass Tech.
Beatty was Kilpatrick’s mistress for a time while in office which spawned the “sex text” scandal between them that was part of the administration’s mess.
Their stories collided at city hall but the outcomes differed.
After being sentenced a year ago, Kilpatrick is sitting in a federal prison.
Beatty was sentenced to 120 day in prison for perjury and served 70 days. Today, she is divorced and living in Atlanta with her two children.
Miller, who left the administration on 2007 and moved to Washington, D.C. in 2009, works in the private sector.
He is awaiting his check-in date to a halfway house where he will spend the next year.
When it came to Kilpatrick’s sentence, I asked Miller if he thought his belligerence with authorities added to the harshness.
“I’m sure that had a lot to do with it,” he said.
When asked about other sentences, Miller said, “They met guidelines. Each situation was different . The judges involved had to make their own determinations.”
Miller met Kilpatrick in ninth grade English class. Miller was a star in baseball, basketball and track. Kilpatrick dominated the football team. And Beatty was a majorette.
They were stars in their own right.
They went on to attend different colleges but hooked up after when Kilpatrick, then a teacher in Detroit Public Schools, decided to run for state representative.
Miller worked on the campaign as did Beatty and his dad, Bernard Kilpatrick.
Then, at Beatty and Bernard Kilpatrick’s urging, Kwame Kilpatrick decided to run for mayor.
During our conversations, when I asked Miller why he stepped over the line and broke the law, he said, “It was loyalty.”
“Naturally you want be there for your friends no matter what that is. Once you do something and cross the line, you cross the line. To maintain harmony, at that point, you try to stay in balance,” Miller said.
“Mistakes were made and I was all in.”
When asked if he rolled on Kilpatrick to get a lighter sentence, Miller said, “I was prepared to do what was necessary. If he was going to fight (the government on charges) then I had to do what I had to do to protect me.”
Miller met Bobby Ferguson, a contractor who befriended then Rep. Kwame Kilpatrick in 1999.
Ferguson proved a pivotal person in what transpired.
Miller said there were also some positives during the Kilpatrick years like the redevelopment of the riverfront and more housing built in downtown.
“The city was starting to move forward,” Miller said.
But it was overshadowed by the scandals.
Though living in Washington, D.C., he visits Detroit to see his mother whom he described as his “rock” who helped him through the heartwrenching saga.
So too his brother, and his late father who passed away two years ago.
“He told me everyone makes mistakes,” Miller said of his father.
After moving with his wife and son to the D.C. area, the couple divorced.
Miller said he’d like to reach out and help other people — particularly young people — avoid making bad choices.
“If the opportunity presented itself to help people avoid choosing the wrong path I’d love to do that,” he said.
On Detroit and its new mayor, Mike Duggan, whom he worked with when Duggan was CEO of Detroit Medical Center, Miller said, “Mike seems to be doing what he can do without the financial control (EM Kevyn Orr controls the purse strings after being appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder last year).”
After filing for bankruptcy in July 2013, Orr is steering the city though the process.
“Bankruptcy is the best thing that happened to Detroit as it will allow them to quickly straighten out the financial situation,” he said.
Right now, Derrick Miller is looking at putting the pieces of his own life back together and focus on being the best dad possible to his 12-year-old son.
“It’s looking very bright,” he said of his future.