As the former mayor’s corruption trial entered its third week, federal prosecutors focused Tuesday on how Kwame Kilpatrick spent money donated to his nonprofit group.
On Tuesday, Brian Lang of Lathrup Village-based store Spy Ops gave a dose of color into an otherwise dull day of testimony. Lang testified a Kwame Kilpatrick aide bought counter-surveillance equipment in 2007 with money from the mayor’s charity.
Kilpatrick’s media adviser and political plumber, who sprung a leak amid a furor over a decorated Detroit police officer’s firing, also took the stand. PR executive Bob Berg testified about his relationship with Kilpatrick, which started in 2001 and was eventually mired in controversy.
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A spy gadget salesman testified he was whisked late at night into the offices of top city officials to sweep for surveillance equipment.
Brian Lang testified that Robert Gibson, a Detroit police officer, bought nearly $1,400 in spy gear in 2007, which was paid for by the mayor’s charity, the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.
He said Gibson also asked him to come and sweep city offices. However, he said one of them was Warren Evans’ office; Evans wasn’t police chief until after Kilpatrick left office.
“It was late, it was 9 or 10 at night, everyone was gone,” Lang testified. They met us outside the building and took us up private elevators and backways into offices and said ‘search these rooms.’ It took a couple hours.”
Lang said he searched several offices and found no bugs.
“I remember seeing a statue of Coleman Young’s head when I was walking through,” Lang said.
A spy store salesman testified Kwame Kilpatrick’s staff visited his shop to buy counter-surveillance equipment for the mayor’s office in 2007.
Brian Lang of Lathrup Village-based store Spy Ops testified for the government, which is trying to prove Kilpatrick misspent charity donations and defrauded donors by purchasing counter-surveillance and anti-bugging equipment.
Lang injected a dose of color into an otherwise dull day of testimony.
“We sell spy gadgets,” Lang told jurors. “For people looking for cheating wives, for corporate espionage and whatever. If you think you have a hidden camera in your house, office or business, we’re the lucky people you call to help find ‘em.”
A Kilpatrick staffer visited his shop in October 2007, Lang testified.
“He was looking for something to find covert cameras and listening devices,” Lang said. “He told me there was some controversy amongst people in the office. He said there was some distrust going on and they didn’t know who they could trust. They wanted us to do sweeps (for hidden devices).”
The staffer spent $1,397 on several pieces of equipment, including a device that finds transmitter bugs and a wireless camera finder.
“It’s the ultimate game of cat and mouse,” Lang said.
The gadgets included a SpyFinder.
“It can find any camera, wireless, hardwired, broken, turned off, it doesn’t mater,” Lang said.
The bill went to the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, the charity prosecutors allege Kilpatrick treated like his personal piggy bank.
Prosecutors showed jurors a check for the spy gadgets from the Civic Fund. It was dated Oct. 15, 2007, and signed by Kilpatrick’s mistress and Chief of Staff Christine Beatty.
His firm’s website has a Top Ten list of reasons to buy spy gadgets. Reason number ten:
Use a mantel clock hidden camera to spy on your teenage daughter and her boyfriend while they’re “watching a movie” in your living room.
Kwame Kilpatrick’s lawyer and a federal agent had an odd exchange over the meaning of the word “cool” during the former mayor’s corruption trial Tuesday.
The exchange happened while a federal agent testified about text messages seized from Kilpatrick and others during a years-long probe of City Hall corruption. Environmental Protection Agency Special Agent Carol Paszkiewicz testified about distinguishing characteristics common to texts sent by Kilpatrick, his father, Bernard Kilpatrick, and others.
Kwame Kilpatrick’s texts were distinguished by his common reply to people on his two-way pager: “Cool.”
Attorney James C. Thomas tried to get Carol Paszkiewicz to agree there are several definitions of “cool.”
“The word cool has many definitions, wouldn’t you agree?” attorney James C. Thomas asked the agent.
“A couple, I supposed,” she said.
“It’s tough to figure out what the mood is when somebody is using a word like ‘cool,’” Thomas said. “It could be a pivot, or spin.”
“No,” the agent said.
“Cool has one definition for you?” the lawyer asked.
“No, it also means temperature,” the agent said.
Investigators seized a trove of text messages from Kilpatrick during a years-long probe of City Hall corruption.
Prosecutors need to authenticate the text messages seized from Kilpatrick, Ferguson, Kilpatrick’s father Bernard and former Detroit water boss Victor Mercado. The distinguishing characteristics help authenticate the messages, prosecutors allege.
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.
A pollster billed Kwame Kilpatrick’s mayoral campaign $26,500 for work during the heated 2005 re-election — but mysteriously wrote a new bill that was eventually paid by the mayor’s purported charity.
Virginia Harvey of Hart Research Associates testified during the corruption trial, the latest in a parade of political experts who received money from the Kilpatrick Civic Fund. The expense is illegal for a nonprofit group, prosecutors allege
Her firm conducted a phone survey of 500 Detroit voters ahead of the November 2005 primary election between Kilpatrick and Freman Hendrix.
The firm billed the campaign but later changed it, sending the invoice to the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.
“Is that unusual?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Blackwell asked.
“No, no,” Harvey said.
The polling reflected voter dissatisfaction with Kilpatrick.
“Detroiters continue to be dissatisfied with the city’s direction. Beating Hendrix will be very tough given the candidates’ profiles and the electorates’ dissatisfaction,” the survey concluded. “In the end, we beat Hendrix because we raise doubts about him.”
Kilpatrick rallied and won the election, thanks, in part, to this controversial ad.
Kwame Kilpatrick’s charity funded a media blitz ahead of the 2001 mayoral election, a former consultant testified.
She was hired by Kilpatrick’s mayoral campaign, but like other consultants, was paid by his charity, the Kilpatrick Civic Fund. Those expenses violate IRS tax laws and defrauded donors, prosecutors allege.
Walker’s firm received more than $21,000 — though Kilpatrick was slow to pay. She got $14,000 initially but sent him a past due notice for almost $8,000 in March 2002.
Walker, who now works as an information officer at Wayne State University, is the third person to say she was paid by the charity for political work related to the 2001 campaign.
“Did you ever do any work for the Kilpatrick Civic Fund?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta asked.
“Directly? I don’t know that what I did was for the Kilpatrick Civic Fund,” Walker said. “We were helping raise his profile and create a favorable impression.”
Walker is a former spokeswoman for Kilpatrick’s mom, former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick but was mum when the Congresswoman was subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury two years ago.
A public relations expert who was paid by Kwame Kilpatrick’s charity testified about helping Kilpatrick weather a scandal in summer 2001 surrounding a controversial $50,000 donation.
Kilpatrick lawyer James C. Thomas is suggesting money paid to PR guru Bob Berg was appropriate and legal because he defended Kilpatrick’s reputation, which preserved the charity’s ability to raise money. Prosecutors contend the expense violated IRS laws.
Kilpatrick, then a state House member, later wrote a letter to the board that oversees the Detroit-Wayne County Community Mental Health Agency recommending that Rutherford’s homeless shelter get a contract from the agency. Rutherford’s business got the $22.7 million contract.
“In your mind, were you paid to somehow assist the Civic Fund or Kwame Kilpatrick get through this scandal?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta asked Berg.
“No,” Berg said. “Our focus was totally on the campaign.”
Berg’s firm is the second group paid by Kilpatrick’s charity to perform political work related to the 2001 mayoral campaign. A pollster testified Friday he was hired by Kilpatrick’s campaign but paid by the charity.
In April 2006, Rutherford was indicted for diverting money from his nonprofit for personal use.
Rutherford, who helped bring racketeering conspiracy charges against Kilpatrick, was accused of misspending $1.3 million in nonprofit funds by funneling them to accounts controlled by Kilpatrick and others.
Rutherford was sentenced to 21 months in prison in January 2011, though he has not reported to prison yet. He is expected to testify against Kilpatrick during the corruption trial.
Rutherford’s name is mentioned several times in the Kilpatrick racketeering indictment. Here’s just one example:
At least $10,000 from Kwame Kilpatrick’s charity paid for a public relations expert to steer his 2001 run for Detroit mayor.
Their relationship started with a phone call in April 2001 from Kilpatrick’s mother, former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick.
“She called me and said that Kwame was going to run for mayor and asked if I would help,” said Berg, the former longtime spokesman for ex-Detroit Mayor Coleman Young.
Berg testified today he was hired as a $15,000-a-month public relations expert.
Prosecutors showed jurors copies of two checks from the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, which the government alleges Kilpatrick treated like his personal piggy bank. Prosecutors allege the personal and political expenses were illegal.
IRS laws barred the Kilpatrick Civic Fund from paying money to a political campaign, the government alleges.
The $5,000 checks were from the Kilpatrick Civic Fund and signed by Kilpatrick and his mistress Christine Beatty.
“Did you ever do work for the Kilpatrick Civic Fund?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta asked Berg.
“No,” Berg said.
Ex-Detroit Mayor Coleman Young’s legendarily tight-lipped spokesman is expected to testify today about his work for another controversial, polarizing politician: Kwame Kilpatrick.
Bob Berg could face questions about hiring a pollster in 2001 to work for Kilpatrick’s mayoral campaign. The pollster testified Friday his firm was paid by the mayor’s
alleged personal piggy bank charity — a legal no-no, the feds say.
Berg is best known as Young’s longtime press secretary. He was a popular target of the late-Detroit News political cartoonist Draper Hill, who often portrayed Berg as a lanky, hapless toadie.
Pete Waldmeir, a former Detroit News columnist, summed up Berg’s career in 1994:
“During the Young regime, Berg gleefully practiced the “mushroom” method of media relations. The press, scum to the very last grain of their miserable existence, served his imperial master best when they were locked away in the dark and only permitted to catch a glimmer of what was going on when Berg opened the door to throw fresh manure on them.”
Berg had bad phone skills, too, according to Waldmeir.
“When he was toadying for hizonner, Berg’s idea of “crisis communications” was to (1) not answer the phone; (2) answer it, put you on hold, transfer you and then cut you off; or (3) give you a choice of a misleading answer, an outright falsehood or tell you that the topic was none of your business and refuse any comment at all.”
From a 1993 profile of Berg:
“As the anointed mouthpiece for an administration that guards information like the crown jewels, much of Berg’s job has been to tell reporters nothing as diplomatically as possible. Even his adversaries say Berg’s handled the job with canny expertise, oftentimes performing a high-wire routine that would have made the Flying Wallendas proud.”
“Being a press agent for Coleman Young is like being a press agent for a junkyard,” Waldmeir wrote. “You ain’t going to be able to clean up the image much. Build a fence around it is all you can do.”