The Kwame Kilpatrick corruption case featured a dose of drama Tuesday when a federal judge dismissed a sleeping juror and as testimony focused on pressure applied by Kilpatrick to steer grant money to friend Bobby Ferguson and his pastor, Bishop Edgar Vann
A former state budget official also testified he was concerned a portion of $800,000 in state grants were later used to bankroll Kilpatrick’s 2001 mayoral campaign.
The use of state grant money is the first step in what prosecutors allege is a pattern of criminal wrongdoing waged by Kilpatrick during his public career.
Testimony resumes at 9 a.m. Wednesday in federal court.
Live Updates EndedPlease read below for an archived view of this event.
The chief architect of the SkyTel pager Kwame Kilpatrick used to send raunchy and incriminating messages to his chief of staff, testified Tuesday about how the device stored messages.
Former SkyTel executive Stephen Oshinsky set the groundwork for later in the trial when prosecutors will introduce text messages sent by Kilpatrick and other co-defendants. Investigators seized a trove of text messages from Kilpatrick during a years-long probe of City Hall corruption.
Oshinsky testified he turned over two discs worth of text messages sent by Kilpatrick and others after being served with two search warrants from the FBI in 2008.
Prosecutors need to authenticate the text messages seized from Kilpatrick, Ferguson, Kilpatrick’s father Bernard and former Detroit water boss Victor Mercado.
Federal prosecutors obtained almost 370,000 text messages after serving the city’s cell service provider with two search warrants in April and November 2008, records show. The warrants sought records for pagers belonging to Kwame Kilpatrick, his mistress and chief of staff Christine Beatty and Ferguson.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy also provided text messages belonging to several current or former city officials.
The texts can be authenticated through distinctive characteristics used by Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick and Ferguson, prosecutors said.
For example, Kwame Kilpatrick frequently used the word “COOL!” when responding to texts, prosecutors said.
Ferguson’s texts were unique for less flattering reasons, prosecutors said.
The texts included typos and incorrect grammar, they said.
Prosecutors allege Kilpatrick ditched his SkyTel pager in early 2005 after learning SkyTel stored text messages on its servers indefinitely.
An underling gave the mayor, Beatty and Ferguson new BlackBerry devices in February 2005, prosecutors allege.
The BlackBerry bill didn’t go to City Hall. Ferguson paid for the smartphones, prosecutors alleged.
A former Kilpatrick aide, Marc Andre Cunningham, who is cooperating with prosecutors, will testify he provided the new devices to the mayor, Beatty and Ferguson.
Cunningham was Kilpatrick’s fraternity brother at Florida A&M University. He pleaded guilty to a bribery charge in November 2010 stemming from a Detroit pension fund investment and is awaiting sentencing.
He admitted to receiving $300,000 in bribes and faces up to 37 months in prison.
Text messages helped lead to Kilpatrick’s downfall.
Kilpatrick admitted lying when he testified in 2004 and 2007 in a whistleblower lawsuit brought by former Detroit police officers who said they were expected to facilitate and cover up Kilpatrick’s extramarital affairs.
A later release of text messages sent between Kilpatrick and Beatty showed both lied when they denied under oath they had a sexual relationship.
Prosecutors are armed with texts sent before the switch to BlackBerry, which they will use in the corruption trial.
Prosecutors allege Ferguson had inside information about city contracts, schemed with Kilpatrick to obtain taxpayer-funded jobs and threatened other contractors.
In May 2004, while discussing the Book Cadillac hotel project in downtown Detroit, Ferguson allegedly told Kilpatrick: “I am famous now. just need to get some money.”
“Lol!” Kilpatrick texted back. “Right. Let’s get you some.”
Ferguson’s text in response corrected Kilpatrick.
“Us,” he typed
Kwame Kilpatrick’s lawyer and a former state budget official clashed over whether the former mayor’s pastor and friend were restricted in how they could spend $800,000 in state grant money.
Prosecutors allege part of the money was misspent hiring Kilpatrick’s wife, buying a Detroit house and bankrolling an extreme makeover of co-defendant Bobby Ferguson’s office. The grants were supposed to help needy seniors and youths.
Kilpatrick lawyer James C. Thomas insisted there were no real restrictions over how the spending of arts and culture grants. The only restriction was the ability of the state to withhold half of the grant money if money was misspent, Thomas said.
“What other restrictions do you have?” Thomas asked former state budget official Kelly Bartlett.
“The grant agreement that was signed,” Bartlett said.
“That’s broadly written,” Thomas said.
“That’s your opinion,” Bartlett countered.
Thomas tried again to get Bartlett to admit the spending rules were vague.
“You’re putting words in my mouth,” Bartlett said.
“I am,” Thomas said.
Thomas later asked when the state official learned Carlita Kilpatrick had received money from grants awarded to nonprofit groups headed by Vann and Ferguson. State officials say Carlita Kilpatrick received $137,500 in state grant funding for doing little or no work.
“I’m not aware of her ever providing services,” Bartlett said.
“Because you never looked,” Thomas snapped.
“Because I never saw any documentation,” Bartlett countered.
Thomas insisted Carlita Kilpatrick’s involvement in receiving money from grants sponsored by her husband was an ethical issue, not a crime.
The lawyer also tried to belittle Bartlett’s unsuccessful attempts to voice his concerns to then-Gov. John Engler and his legal counsel Lucille Taylor.
“The governor didn’t think enough of it to make it a part of his schedule,” Thomas said. “Lucille Taylor didn’t think enough of it to make it part of her schedule.”
There is no evidence a portion of $800,000 in state grant cash ended up bankrolling Kwame Kilpatrick’s run for Detroit mayor in 2001, according to testimony Tuesday in the City Hall corruption trial.
Former state budget official Kelly Bartlett said he examined a list of donors to Kilpatrick’s successful campaign but did not find any evidence. He testified while being cross examined by Kilpatrick’s lawyer James C. Thomas.
“Did you find any information that would lead you to believe any money was donated to Mr. Kilpatrick’s campaign?” Thomas asked him.
“I was not able to find that,” Bartlett testified.
Bartlett earlier testified about concerns regarding $800,000 in grants awarded to groups headed by Kilpatrick’s pastor, Bishop Edgar Vann, and friend Bobby Ferguson. The grants were awarded after Kilpatrick advocated for both groups.
Bartlett said Kwame Kilpatrick was the only lawmaker to get involved on behalf of a grant recipient after the money was awarded. He earlier testified that Kilpatrick called to complain about state budget officials asking questions about how the grants were spent.
Kilpatrick’s lawyer tried to re-frame the phone call from Kilpatrick, which Bartlett earlier said left him startled and scolded.
“He had power,” Thomas told Bartlett.
“Yeah,” he said.
“He was a powerful guy,” Thomas said.
“Sure,” Bartlett replied.
“You had not…experienced his dynamic self,” Thomas said, “and you were taken a little bit aback when he called you.”
A state official was worried a portion of $800,000 in state grants given to groups headed by Kwame Kilpatrick’s pastor and friend funded his 2001 mayoral campaign, a budget official testified Tuesday.
A state official started inquiring after learning about $137,000 in state grant money was given to Kilpatrick’s wife Carlita and her company, former state budget official Kelly Bartlett testified Tuesday.
“I was concerned that we needed to know whether or not some of the funds, which now appeared were going to Mrs. Kilpatrick, were turning into campaign contributions for the mayoral campaign,” Bartlett testified.
He was surprised to learn a group headed by Bishop Edgar Vann gave part of the grant money to Carlita Kilpatrick’s company U.N.I.T.E. And $100,000 was given to her by Bobby Ferguson’s nonprofit, Detroit 3D.
He searched state campaign finance reports and wrote a draft letter to the state Attorney General’s office to get an opinion on whether the state could recoup the state grants or stop funding the groups.
Bartlett, who now works as director of government affairs for the Michigan Department of Transportation, also tried discussing the issue with then-Gov. John Engler’s legal counsel.
But Bartlett was unable to get an appointment.
Kwame Kilpatrick leaned on a state budget official probing how his pal Bobby Ferguson’s nonprofit group spent a $250,000 state grant, according to testimony Tuesday in the City Hall corruption case.
Kilpatrick called former state budget official Kelly Bartlett in spring 2001 to complain about the state looking into the state grant and a second grant given to a group headed by Kilpatrick’s pastor. A portion of the $250,000 grant was given to Kilpatrick’s wife by Ferguson, prosecutors allege.
“He began by saying in a particular tone of voice: ‘Kelly…,’” Bartlett testified. “It reminded me of a tone of voice a parent would use when a child’s in trouble. I was a little bit startled.
“He said something to the effect that these groups are getting nickle and dimed by your people. That they were being asked to account for every nickle and dime in these grants.”
Bartlett later met with Kilpatrick’s aide Derrick Miller to instruct him on the level of detail needed regarding grant expenses. Miller later served as a key aide to Kilpatrick in Detroit City Hall.
Miller was originally charged alongside Kilpatrick in the corruption case before reaching a plea deal. He is expected to testify at some point during the four-month trial.
The state gave special preference to Bobby Ferguson’s nonprofit group after Kwame Kilpatrick urged approval of a $500,000 grant, a state official testified Tuesday.
Kelly Bartlett, who worked in the state budget office in spring 2001, said Budget Director Mary Lannoye talked to Kilpatrick about the grant when Kilpatrick was a state Representative and head of the Democratic caucus.
Kilpatrick supported the grant to Ferguson’s nonprofit, Detroit Three Dimensional Community Development Corp. Afterward, the group’s grant application was approved.
“The budget director had said these are ones we want to pay attention to and think we are going to fund,” Bartlett testified.
Ferguson’s group eventually received $250,000, which prosecutors allege was not spent appropriately helping needy seniors and youths.
The state concluded the money was misspent but did not ask Ferguson to repay the money. Instead, the state yanked the second $250,000 payment.
In all, 15 Wayne County organizations received $5.3 million in arts and culture grants in a round of funding during Gov. John Engler’s administration. The two pitched by Kilpatrick got $800,000 of that money.
Wayne County groups got nearly 30 percent of the money doled out from the nearly $18 million awarded by the state.
Next door to where Bobby Ferguson is standing trial in the City Hall corruption case, his former employee avoided a prison sentence Monday for her role in a bid-rigging case that ended in a mistrial this summer.
Tabitha Goodner of Harper Woods was fined $5,000 by U.S. District Judge David Lawson. The sentence came 17 months after Goodner reached a plea deal with federal prosecutors.
From the plea deal:
“According to court documents, the activity took place in January of 2008 and involved falsifying documents submitted to the Michigan State Transportation Commission by Bobby W. Ferguson’s company Ferguson Enterprises, Inc. The false documents were submitted as part of an effort to allow Ferguson Enterprises, Inc. to bid on, perform and receive payment for public works projects awarded by the Michigan Department of Transportation.
Last month, a suburban contractor linked to Ferguson, was sentenced to two years probation for his role in the bid-rigging case.
Ferguson will be retried on bid-rigging charges in April, after the City Hall corruption case.
A female juror was bounced from the Kilpatrick case Tuesday, one day after falling asleep during testimony.
The white juror, a steelworker who knew little about the case before being seated, fell asleep three days in a row.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds met privately with lawyers involved in the case this morning before announcing the juror’s dismissal.
“She had some issues that made it difficult for her to be fully attentive to the matters here in court and we agreed it would be best that she be excused,” Edmunds told the other jurors.
The juror was replaced by a male juror, one of six alternates. The replacement juror is a white, 60-something former Marine and retired auto technician.
During voir dire, Bobby Ferguson’s defense attorney Michael Rataj created a stir when he pointed to his own Marine Corps pin and told the juror that they “had a bond” because both had served in the Marines.
The jury now includes eight women and four men.
The panel includes eight African-Americans — five as jurors and three as alternates. The panelists, who were granted anonymity by the judge, include a social worker, a college student and a juror who helps companies find qualified minority bidders.
Lawyers in the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption case are meeting with U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds in chambers Tuesday, delaying the start of testimony.
The private huddle comes one day after a sleeping juror drew the attention of the judge and lawyers. The female juror has fallen asleep during testimony on three consecutive days, prompting speculation she will be replaced by one of six alternates.
Kilpatrick and contractor Bobby Ferguson are standing together at the defense table, waiting for their lawyers to return from the judge’s chamber.