Kwame Kilpatrick Trial: 62 days of prosecution - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Kwame Kilpatrick Trial: 62 days of prosecution

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Kwame Kilpatrick's defense will present its case beginning Thursday. Kwame Kilpatrick's defense will present its case beginning Thursday.
  • Latest Development in the Kilpatrick Corruption TrialMore>>

  • Bobby Ferguson sentenced to 21 years in prison

    Bobby Ferguson sentenced to 21 years in prison

    Friday, October 11 2013 3:20 PM EDT2013-10-11 19:20:27 GMT
    Bobby Ferguson, a former city contractor and longtime friend of ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, has been sentenced to 21 years in federal prison for his role in a public corruption case.
    Bobby Ferguson, a former city contractor and longtime friend of ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, has been sentenced to 21 years in federal prison for his role in a public corruption case.
  • Kwame Kilpatrick sentenced to 28 years in prison

    Kwame Kilpatrick sentenced to 28 years in prison

    Thursday, October 10 2013 9:33 PM EDT2013-10-11 01:33:28 GMT
    A federal judge sentenced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Thursday to 28 years in prison for his role in a public corruption scandal that cost the city millions and ended a career for the once promising politician.
    A federal judge sentenced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Thursday to 28 years in prison for his role in a public corruption scandal that cost the city millions and ended a career for the once promising politician.
  • No prison time for Kilpatrick's right-hand man

    No prison time for Kilpatrick's right-hand man

    Thursday, May 29 2014 11:32 PM EDT2014-05-30 03:32:53 GMT
    He was former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's best friend and was once his right-hand man in City Hall. But when the corruption scandal unfolded, Derrick Miller testified against his former friend, helping to send the ex-mayor to prison.
    He was former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's best friend and was once his right-hand man in City Hall. But when the corruption scandal unfolded, Derrick Miller testified against his former friend, helping to send the ex-mayor to prison.

By Ken Martinek
FOX 2 News Investigative Sr. Producer


DETROIT (WJBK) -- We witnessed sixty-two days of testimony.  The Kilpatrick Inc. Public Corruption trial started on a balmy day in September and we watched the temperature gradually fall to a low of 3 degrees.  We saw one juror fall asleep and get kicked out.  We watched one lawyer fall ill and get rushed to the hospital.  The trial was delayed one week.  One lawyer just fell.  She was out for a week but the trial moved on.

 

We saw pictures of two safes stuffed with cash.  We heard testimony about cash stuffed into a vacuum cleaner, stuffed down gym shorts, stuffed down the blouse of a matronly fundraiser, and the ladies got a bit of a show when a hunky young FBI agent stuffed $90,000 down his pants before walking through an airport metal detector more than 100 times.  We heard him tell us the metal detector never went off.

 

We watched undercover video, listened to recorded wire-tap conversations, looked at text messages, emails, and pictures. 

 

We even found out that if the line at the Pancake House is really long the FBI can get you a table right away… as long as you are under surveillance.

 

We heard from dozens of witnesses.

 

A big shot business man with rumored mob ties and a tough guy image told us how Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick told him to hire Bobby Ferguson or hit the highway.

 

We heard Bobby Ferguson's one time girlfriend tell how she and her sisters signed checks so Bobby could launder campaign contributions.  What was the nature of you relationship, the prosecutors asked?  It was of a personal nature, was the reply.

 

We saw video of a Grand Rapids business man lugging a case of really (really, really) expensive champagne and putting it into the trunk of an SUV that belonged to Bernard Kilpatrick.  The Mayor's father stood by watching, and instead of saying, "Thanks," asked the guy if he had that cash he'd promised him.

 

We watched one defendant plead guilty.  We heard Judge Nancy Edmunds tell the Jury that Mr. Victor Mercado is no longer a part of the proceedings, and not another word was said about him.  As far as the jury knew, the former director of the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department just disappeared.

 

Another defendant went back to prison. The Judge didn't say anything to the jury about that.

 

We watched the prosecution team, R. Michael Bullotta, Mark Chutkow, Jennifer Blackwell, and Eric Doeh, systematically work through the chapters of the case.  It's such a big case, the indictment is as thick as a book, and there are already books about the case in the works.

 

The Enterprise: "…an ongoing organization whose members functioned as a continuing unit for a common purpose…"

 

Witnesses told us about weekly meetings held at Bernard Kilpatrick's condo.  We saw a text message Bobby sent to Kwame saying he had a good idea about how to "move in" on a big sewer contract.

 

On the last full day the prosecution left the jury with this text message between Bobby and Kwame

 

Bobby: I am famous now…Just need to get some money."

 

Kwame: "LOL, right…Let's get you some."

 

Bobby: "Us."

 

Prosecutors claimed the purpose of the Enterprise was "to commit extortion, bribery and fraud."  So the defendants could get rich.

 

4:50

 

Racketeering: Prosecutors claim the defendants rigged contracts, extorted contractors, and strong armed them into giving Bobby Ferguson work.  They say sometimes Bobby did the work; sometimes he didn't, and got paid just for being the Mayor's pal.

 

On Day 25 of the trial we heard the phrase "10 million…5 million" more than a dozen times.  Avanish Rachmale took the stand and told jurors how his company, Lakeshore Engineering, won 2 big sewer contracts, one for $10 million and one for $5 million. But those were mysteriously canceled.  Rachmale told jurors he concluded he had the wrong members on his team.  He also testified that once he put Bobby on his bid team the contracts started rolling in.  What was it all about, prosecutors asked?  Rachmale's partner Tom Hardiman put his hand out in front of him, palms up, and raising his right hand said,"10 million" then gestured with his left hand, "and 5 million."

 

Larger than life Tony Soave took the witness stand on Day 34 like he owned it. Relaxed, confidant, he put one arm up on the side of the box and settled in, like testifying in Federal Court was no big deal. He told jurors one of his company's contracts was being held up. Mike Bullotta asked him what he did about it.  Went to see the Mayor was Soave's reply.  Here's what I wrote in the blog that day. "Soave says the Mayor told him he had the wrong subcontractor.  Says he asked him what's the right one.  Says Kwame told him Ferguson was the right one."

 

Putting Bobby on the team became a familiar theme, and they used text messages to prove their point.

 

Bobby: "You haven't released that contract right?"

 

Kwame: "Right, they know I'm holding it."

 

Prosecutors say $124 million in city money passed through Bobby Ferguson's hands. They showed some of that money stuffed in those two safes.

 

Kwame got money too, prosecutors say.  We heard testimony from Emma Bell, the fund raiser for Kilpatrick's Mayoral campaign and the Kilpatrick Civic Fund says he kicked back part of her earnings to the Mayor.  She carried the cash in her cleavage when she passed through City Hall security and delivered it to his office, handed it to him in "The Barber Chair Room."

 

We heard Derrick Miller, Kwame's pal from their High School days; tell jurors he passed the Mayor $10,000 in a Men's Room. Way back on Day 2 Frat buddy Mahlon Clift told the court he hauled $90,000 in his shorts through airport security, says he stored it in his vacuum cleaner.

 

Prosecutor's says he also steered a little loot to his family and friends.

 

Defrauding donors:  Prosecutors says miss-used the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.  From what I heard in court he used it like his own personal piggy bank. Witnesses testified he used it to pay for family trips to lavish resorts, trips with his then mistress and Chief of Staff Christine Beatty to a lavish resort, Summer Camp for the kids, and to pay for research for his Mayoral Campaign, and even, eventually, to pay the crisis manager he hired when the whole text message scandal broke.  Prosecutors showed checks, bills, and receipts.

 

That crisis manager, Judy Smith, testified, so did political consultant Bob Berg. In the course of the trial we heard from close advisers like them, frat buddies, friends like Miller, Kwame's tax guy, even the lady who prepared his taxes in Texas.

 

We also heard from State of Michigan officials.  Prosecutor's used that testimony to illustrate that then Representative Kilpatrick steered grants to Non-Profit organizations that put his wife Carlita on the payroll.  Bobby got some grant money, too. Prosecutors say he remodeled his office with it, but didn't help any senior citizens or poor kids, like he said he would.

 

Bribes: Payola, presents, and Dubai.  Prosecutor's says Kwame Kilpatrick cashed in on Pay to Play.  We heard testimony from one business man who gave Kwame $10,000 to buy suits in Dubai, another who paid off his lay-away bill at a local haberdashery. On Day 42 I wrote, "What a bunch of clothes hogs… If they spent as much time working on the city's problems as they did on clothes we may not be facing a budget crisis."

 

Soave told us about flying Kwame and his pals around the country in his private jet. Miller told us the 10 grand he gave the Mayor in the bathroom was a bribe from the guys running Asian Village and a contractor at Cobo Hall claimed Miller dropped in regularly to pick up cash for Kwame.

 

We also heard Jim Rosendall tell jurors he came down from Grand Rapids, cash at the ready, to put together the Synagro Sludge deal.  Rosendall said he'd heard about Detroit, and how business was done in the City

 

Jim Rosendall's testimony was fun to watch.  It was literally entertaining.  From the time he first met Kwame Kilpatrick at a swanky Manoogian Mansion party and had a conversation with him in the basement to lugging a case of Cristal Champagne for Bernard in jeans and a well-worn sweat-shirt around Christmas time.

 

It was in the basement of the Manoogian, Rosendall told us, that Kwame told him to hire his Dad as a consultant. It was amazing to see how the relationship between Bernard and Rosendall developed.  Two wheeler dealers who thought they were players, one who thought he could impress the city boys with his cash, and the other who thought he was going to reel-in a naïve out-of-towner with his cunning and guile.  As it turned out, they both got played by the FBI.

 

Rosendall told us about lunch meetings where he promised Bernard a big pay day. Prosecutors showed receipts.  The receipts were all Rosendall's, from his  business expenses reports, with an ironic grin the Synagro executive recounted how Bernard was always a little short of cash and never paid for a lunch. He talked about meeting Bernard at top notch restaurants like Southern Fires in Detroit (great food, Elrick, our photographer Marcus, and I went there to have lunch and do a story about all the deals Bernard did in restaurants.) and down home eateries like the Pancake House where, Rosendall says he was surprised when the Hostess lead past a long line of people waiting to be seated and gave his party a great table.  Turns out, Rosendall says, the table was wired for sound.

 

It was right around that time according to Rosendall's testimony that he was driving along and the FBI pulled him over.  Not for speeding, but, as he told the court, to let him know by-the-way that they had him on bribing a public official and would he like to cooperate with the investigation.  Rosendall told us how FBI Agents wired him for sound, hooked him up with a hidden camera.  Prosecutors played the tapes in court.  We got to see Bernard watch Rosendall lug that case of champagne and then hold up his hand, five fingers spread out.  Prosecutors asked Rosendall what Bernard was indicating, and he told us it was the elder Kilpatrick's way of telling him how much money, in thousands, he was expecting to be paid.

 

It wasn't all fun and games for Rosendall, though; he got carved up, to borrow an image from Bobby Ferguson's attorney Mike Rataj, like a Thanksgiving Turkey.  Rosendall admitted he lied to his boss and that he was double crossing Bernard.  Kwame's attorney Jim Thomas  also made Rosendall tell jurors how he plead guilty to a bribery charge and already spent months in prison, far fewer than he might have had he not cooperated with the investigators.

 

Racketeering: Prosecutors claim the defendants rigged contracts, extorted contractors, and strong armed them into giving Bobby Ferguson work.  They say sometimes Bobby did the work; sometimes he didn't', and got paid just for being the Mayor's pal.

 

On Day 25 of the trial we heard the phrase "10 million…5 million" more than a dozen times.  Avanish Rachmale took the stand and told jurors how his company, Lakeshore Engineering, won 2 big sewer contracts, one for $10 million and one for $5 million. But those were mysteriously canceled.  Rachmale told jurors he concluded he had the wrong members on his team.  He also testified that once he put Bobby on his bid team the contracts started rolling in.  What was it all about, prosecutors asked?  Rachmale's partner Tom Hardiman put his hand out in front of him, palms up, and raising his right hand said,"10 million" then gestured with his left hand, "and 5 million."

 

Larger than life Tony Soave took the witness stand on Day 34 like he owned it. Relaxed, confidant, he put one arm up on the side of the box and settled in, like testifying in Federal Court was no big deal. He told jurors one of his company's contracts was being held up. Mike Bullotta asked him what he did about it.  Went to see the Mayor was Soave's reply.  Here's what I wrote in the blog that day. "Soave says the Mayor told him he had the wrong subcontractor.  Says he asked him what's the right one.  Says Kwame told him Ferguson was the right one."

 

Putting Bobby on the team became a familiar theme, and they used text messages to prove their point.

 

Bobby: "You haven't released that contract right?"

 

Kwame: "Right, they know I'm holding it."

 

Prosecutors say $124 million in city money passed through Bobby Ferguson's hands. They showed some of that money stuffed in those two safes.

 

Kwame got money too, prosecutors say.  We heard testimony from Emma Bell, the fund raiser for Kilpatrick's Mayoral campaign and the Kilpatrick Civic Fund says he kicked back part of her earnings to the Mayor.  She carried the cash in her cleavage when she passed through City Hall security and delivered it to his office, handed it to him in "The Barber Chair Room."

 

We heard Derrick Miller, Kwame's pal from their High School days; tell jurors he passed the Mayor $10,000 in a Men's Room. Way back on Day 2 Frat buddy Mahlon Clift told the court he hauled $90,000 in his shorts through airport security, says he stored it in his vacuum cleaner.

 

Prosecutor's says he also steered a little loot to his family and friends.

 

Defrauding donors:  Prosecutors says miss-used the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.  From what I heard in court he used it like his own personal piggy bank. Witnesses testified he used it to pay for family trips to lavish resorts, trips with his then mistress and Chief of Staff Christine Beatty to a lavish resort, Summer Camp for the kids, and to pay for research for his Mayoral Campaign, and even, eventually, to pay the crisis manager he hired when the whole text message scandal broke.  Prosecutors showed checks, bills, and receipts.

 

That crisis manager, Judy Smith, testified, so did political consultant Bob Berg. In the course of the trial we heard from close advisers like them, frat buddies, friends like Miller, Kwame's tax guy, even the lady who prepared his taxes in Texas.

 

We also heard from State of Michigan officials.  Prosecutor's used that testimony to illustrate that then Representative Kilpatrick steered grants to Non-Profit organizations that put his wife Carlita on the payroll.  Bobby got some grant money, too. Prosecutors say he remodeled his office with it, but didn't help any senior citizens or poor kids, like he said he would.

 

Bribes: Payola, presents, and Dubai.  Prosecutor's says Kwame Kilpatrick cashed in on Pay to Play.  We heard testimony from one business man who gave Kwame $10,000 to buy suits in Dubai, another who paid off his lay-away bill at a local haberdashery. On Day 42 I wrote, "What a bunch of clothes hogs… If they spent as much time working on the city's problems as they did on clothes we may not be facing a budget crisis."

 

Soave told us about flying Kwame and his pals around the country in his private jet. Miller told us the 10 grand he gave the Mayor in the bathroom was a bribe from the guys running Asian Village and a contractor at Cobo Hall claimed Miller dropped in regularly to pick up cash for Kwame.

 

We also heard Jim Rosendall tell jurors he came down from Grand Rapids, cash at the ready, to put together the Synagro Sludge deal.  Rosendall said he'd heard about Detroit, and how business was done in the City

 

6:47

 

Jim Rosendall's testimony was fun to watch.  It was literally entertaining.  From the time he first met Kwame Kilpatrick at a swanky Manoogian Mansion party and had a conversation with him in the basement to lugging a case of Cristal Champagne for Bernard in jeans and a well-worn sweat-shirt around Christmas time.

 

It was in the basement of the Manoogian, Rosendall told us, that Kwame told him to hire his Dad as a consultant. It was amazing to see how the relationship between Bernard and Rosendall developed.  Two wheeler dealers who thought they were players, one who thought he could impress the city boys with his cash, and the other who thought he was going to reel-in a naïve out-of-towner with his cunning and guile.  As it turned out, they both got played by the FBI.

 

Rosendall told us about lunch meetings where he promised Bernard a big pay day. Prosecutors showed receipts.  The receipts were all Rosendall's, from his  business expenses reports, with an ironic grin the Synagro executive recounted how Bernard was always a little short of cash and never paid for a lunch. He talked about meeting Bernard at top notch restaurants like Southern Fires in Detroit (great food, Elrick, our photographer Marcus, and I went there to have lunch and do a story about all the deals Bernard did in restaurants.) and down home eateries like the Pancake House where, Rosendall says he was surprised when the Hostess lead past a long line of people waiting to be seated and gave his party a great table.  Turns out, Rosendall says, the table was wired for sound.

 

It was right around that time according to Rosendall's testimony that he was driving along and the FBI pulled him over.  Not for speeding, but, as he told the court, to let him know by-the-way that they had him on bribing a public official and would he like to cooperate with the investigation.  Rosendall told us how FBI Agents wired him for sound, hooked him up with a hidden camera.  Prosecutors played the tapes in court.  We got to see Bernard watch Rosendall lug that case of champagne and then hold up his hand, five fingers spread out.  Prosecutors asked Rosendall what Bernard was indicating, and he told us it was the elder Kilpatrick's way of telling him how much money, in thousands, he was expecting to be paid.

 

It wasn't all fun and games for Rosendall, though; he got carved up, to borrow an image from Bobby Ferguson's attorney Mike Rataj, like a Thanksgiving Turkey.  Rosendall admitted he lied to his boss and that he was double crossing Bernard.  Kwame's attorney Jim Thomas  also made Rosendall tell jurors how he plead guilty to a bribery charge and already spent months in prison, far fewer than he might have had he not cooperated with the investigators.

 

7:17

 

The defense team did not sit idly by.  But they didn't always have great success either. 

 

One example that stands out; the cross examination of a witness who talked about the Mayor's trip to Colorado where Jim Thomas floated the hypotheses that his client could have had a business reason to go there.  On Day 14 I wrote:

 

"…Kwame's attorney asked about the possibility that his client may have been hanging out at a swanky resort in Colorado because he might have been attending a Mayor's conference. Turns out Thomas could have asked if it were possible that his client was in Colorado to meet the flying saucer and greet the little green men from Mars. That's because there was no conference.

 

Of course you can't prove that there are little green men from Mars. But Jim Thomas might reply that you can't prove that there aren't. He made a similar statement in court yesterday …the Judge admonished him for asking questions that had no basis in fact. He sat down after that."

 

Prosecutors came back the next day and laid the hypothesis to waste.  Not only was there no conference that weekend, but the organization that Thomas named had more in common with little green men from outer space than I thought, it didn't exist.

 

Bobby Ferguson's attorney also had a problem with an invoice.  Mike Rataj argued that Bobby was already working on that big sewer collapse in Sterling Heights when Prosecutors claimed he was scheming with Kilpatrick to "move in" on the job.  Rataj even had a document to prove it, an invoice for work already done and dated before the damaging text message.

 

Special Agent Carol Paszkiewicz testified that she found the original invoice sent to the company in charge of the project.  That document was nearly identical but had much more information than the defense exhibit and a different date, weeks after the text.

 

The defense team goes on offense Thursday.  M.L. Elrick will be in the court room with a ring side seat.  He'll have a full report on Fox 2 News.  I'll be in the overflow room blogging the events.  We'll see if Thomas and Rataj, Gerald Evelyn, Susan Van Dusen, and John Shea can keep their clients out of jail.

 

Ken Martinek is Senior Producer-Investigations for Fox 2 News. You can contact him at ken.martinek@foxtv.com

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