U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds canceled testimony Tuesday after defense lawyer Gerald Evelyn fell ill in front of jurors and was rushed to a nearby hospital. Edmunds is now reviewing contingency plans with lawyers involved in the case.
Evelyn’s medical condition was not immediately clear, though he appeared conscious before emergency responders wheeled him out of federal court in downtown Detroit.
Read below for developments.
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A federal judge scrapped testimony in the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial Monday after veteran defense lawyer Gerald Evelyn fell ill in front of jurors and was rushed to a Detroit hospital.
The development marked a dramatic and, at least temporary, break in the high-profile City Hall racketeering trial and threatens to derail the flagship case in a years-long federal probe of Detroit corruption. The trial entered its sixth week Monday but was expected to last until January and feature testimony from almost 200 government witnesses.
Evelyn’s medical condition was not immediately clear, though he appeared conscious before emergency responders wheeled him out of federal court in downtown Detroit and into an awaiting ambulance. His fellow defense attorney, Mike Rataj, was grim-faced as he climbed aboard the ambulance to join Evelyn.
Evelyn, 60, was taken to Detroit Receiving Hospital shortly after noon, said James C. Thomas, the attorney defending Kilpatrick.
“It appears to be something that’s a concern to everybody,” Thomas said, adding he is hopeful that Evelyn will return soon to court. “He’s a strong guy.”
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds canceled testimony Tuesday and is reviewing contingency plans with lawyers involved in the case.
“The court will make a decision tomorrow afternoon about when to resume or what happens,” federal court spokesman Rod Hansen said. “We are hoping for the best.”
Evelyn, Ferguson’s lead defense attorney, was stricken with an unknown medical emergency at about 11:40 a.m. while cross examining Detroit businessman Tom Hardiman, one of several Detroit Water and Sewerage Department contractors allegedly extorted by Evelyn’s client, Bobby Ferguson.
While questioning Hardiman, Evelyn asked for a momentary break. He then put his head on the table as lawyers involved in the case, reporters and court watchers stood and jurors exited the eighth-floor courtroom.
A few frantic moments followed as a nurse was called, and a wheelchair brought into the courtroom.
Kilpatrick grabbed the wheelchair and lifted it above the rows of benches to get to Evelyn in the cramped courtroom.
Court officials then cleared the courtroom.
Kilpatrick and Ferguson had worried looks on their faces as the nurse tended to Evelyn.
Veteran defense attorneys milled about on the courthouse’s first floor, stunned and concerned about Evelyn’s condition.
“I hope he’s OK,” Bloomfield Hills defense lawyer Walter Piszczatowski said.
Evelyn, a Detroit lawyer known for his impassioned arguments and rapid-fire delivery, has represented Kilpatrick previously in an unrelated matter and been involved in a number of high-profile criminal cases.
He defended Ferguson in this summer’s bid-rigging trial in federal court, which ended in a mistrial.
In the corruption case, Ferguson’s defense team includes Rataj and attorney Susan Van Dusen, but Evelyn was the lead defense attorney. He has represented Ferguson for several years.
Bobby Ferguson didn’t pocket no-show deals because he was friends with Kwame Kilpatrick, he got paid because a rival contractor elbowed him off a city job, according to testimony Monday.
That’s according to testimony Monday from Detroit businessman Tom Hardiman.
The former Lakeshore Engineering Services businessman provided additional information about a $20 million sewer deal in 2005 that was the focus of testimony Friday when Hardiman described alleged extortion demands by Ferguson.
Hardiman partnered with several companies, including Ferguson Enterprises Inc. to win the deal in March 2005.
The pairing was strategic. Ferguson’s company was based in Detroit and used a large number of Detroit residents and minorities — factors that helped land the deal.
Ferguson was supposed to get 36 percent of the deal and work alongside other contractors, including Angelo D’Alessandro.
Under cross-examination from Ferguson’s lawyer Gerald Evelyn, Hardiman agreed D’Alessandro elbowed Ferguson off the deal.
Ferguson was bought out for $900,000 — far more than the approximately $342,000 in profit Ferguson’s company could have received under the original deal.
A Detroit businessman allegedly extorted by Bobby Ferguson said he served on the contractor’s charitable foundation out of the goodness of his heart.
The admission came as Ferguson’s defense lawyer tried to combat earlier testimony that his client extorted money from former Lakeshore Engineering Sevices partner Tom Hardiman.
Defense lawyer Gerald Evelyn portrayed Ferguson as a charitable family man concerned about helping minority contractors. Prosecutors say Ferguson, who was convicted of pistol-whipping a man, strong-armed some of those same contractors — including Hardiman.
Under cross-examination, Hardiman said he served on the board of the Homer Ferguson Foundation, a charity started by Ferguson’s father. The foundation raised money to feed Detroit’s poor.
“That’s not something you did for money or recognition, you thought it was morally good, right?” Evelyn asked.
“That’s right,” Hardiman said.
“As far as you know, that’s what drives Mr. Ferguson: business opportunities for himself, business opportunities for his family and African American businessmen, isn’t that right?” Evelyn asked.
“That’s right,” Hardiman said.
A Detroit businessman allegedly extorted by Bobby Ferguson was granted limited immunity in exchange for cooperating with federal agents investigating City Hall corruption, according to testimony Monday.
Tom Hardiman was questioned about the arrangement and cozy ties with Kwame Kilpatrick. Those ties included serving on Kilpatrick’s transition team after the 2001 election, donating money to his campaign, holding fundraisers.
Under cross-examination from Ferguson’s lawyer Gerald Evelyn, the businessman said he wanted his former company Lakeshore Engineering Services to have name recognition with the mayor.
“You wanted money?” Evelyn asked.
“Business,” Hardiman said.
Evelyn portrayed Ferguson as a family man and helped other minority contractors.
Evelyn asked about the fundraisers and a Lakeshore-related firm giving a “good deal” to Kilpatrick’s campaign to rent space in a building it owned along Woodward and E. Grand Boulevard.
“The reason we had fundraisers is because we believed in the mayor,” Hardiman said.
Hardiman said the campaign donations were given freely in 2002.
“I said (to Kilpatrick) ‘I am never going to ask you for any special consideration, but if I run into a problem, I want access to you,’” Hardiman testified.
Bobby Ferguson and Kwame Kilpatrick joked about a Detroit businessman who tried unsuccessfully to find out why his firm allegedly lost $15 million worth of deals.
In May 2003, Ferguson texted the mayor after learning former Lakeshore Engineering Services partner Tom Hardiman called Kilpatrick’s mom in hopes of resurrecting a water deal.
“Tom Hardiman, Lakesure (sic), they called your mother office on us,” Ferguson texted the mayor on May 2, 2003.
“Lolol!” Kilpatrick replied, according to text messages seized by investigators.
Along with calling the mayor’s mom, former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, Hardiman called the mother of the mayor’s aide DeDan Milton. He also approached Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller, whose nickname is Zeke.
“You got to talk DeDan and Zeke,” Ferguson texted the mayor. “This s— is funny…I didn’t know I would become the motherf—— man…”
Both Milton and Miller have been convicted in the City Hall corruption case and are expected to testify for the government.
A Detroit businessman didn’t lose city contracts because he was extorted by Bobby Ferguson, he lost them because of budget cuts, a defense lawyer suggested Monday.
Former Detroit Water boss Victor Mercado’s lawyer Martin Crandall suggested two department contracts were not fulfilled because of a cost-savings analysis underway in early 2003.
The suggestion marked the start of cross-examination of Detroit businessman Tom Hardiman, who testified about alleged extortion demands by Ferguson, a close friend and co-defendant of ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
On Friday, Hardiman said his former firm Lakeshore Engineering Services lost $15 million worth of contracts because he refused to give Ferguson a 25 percent piece of the deals.
Hardiman’s refusal was a watershed moment in the businessman’s life. After allegedly losing the deals, he said he paid Ferguson more than $1.5 million to do nothing but protect his company’s interests.
Under cross-examination Monday, Hardiman said he did not know whether Ferguson had influence with the former water boss.
Crandall suggested Ferguson and Mercado didn’t get along. Ferguson referred to the water boss as “the slickman” and said he was “full of s—,” Crandall said.
“Bobby’s personality was one of challenge,” Hardiman said. “So if he didn’t get along with Victor or used the words you are saying, that was his personality.”
In the weeks before Kwame Kilpatrick resigned in 2008, Bobby Ferguson’s demands for cash increased in frequency, one of the contractor’s alleged extortion victims testified.
“Did he explain at all why he needed these payments?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked Detroit businessman Tom Hardiman.
“No,” Hardiman said.
Hardiman, a former Lakeshore Engineering Services partner, said he stopped paying ex-Mayor Kilpatrick’s close friend after the mayor resigned amid the text-message scandal in September 2008.
Ferguson tried to get work with Lakeshore once or twice afterward.
“What was your response?” Chutkow asked.
“We’ll see,” Hardiman said.
“Why did you say ‘we’ll see?’” the prosecutor asked.
“We were going to treat him like any other contractor,” Hardiman said.
The testimony marked a stark contrast between how Hardiman and Lakeshore treated Ferguson during the mayor’s tenure. Hardiman testified Friday he paid for no-show work and gave Ferguson shares of water department deals to keep the mayor’s close friend happy — and ensure future city work.
Lakeshore CEO Avinash Rachmale is expected to testify after Hardiman.
The prosecutor asked why Ferguson was frozen out of Lakeshore deals after Kilpatrick quit.
“Basically, Avinash was always concerned about the relationship Ferguson had downtown and when that relationship was no longer there, it was easier to say no,” Hardiman said.
Another businessman whose firm allegedly was extorted out of at least $6.7 million will soon testify about being threatened by ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s close friend, Bobby Ferguson.
In a court filing Monday, prosecutors revealed the upcoming testimony of Lakeshore Engineering Services CEO Avinash Rachmale.
Rachmale will testify about an alleged climate of fear that existed during Kilpatrick’s tenure, according to the court filing.
Rachmale will tell jurors about conversations he had with his former partner, Detroit businessman Tom Hardiman, who will continue testifying Monday.
From the filing:
“Ferguson threatened each of them individually and they related those threats to each other as they discussed how to respond to Ferguson’s extortionate demands.”
The conversations will be told to jurors to show Rachmale and Hardiman’s state of mind as extortion victims, prosecutors wrote. The conversations, which prosecutors argue are admissible, address the heart of the corruption case, including allegations of corruption and racketeering conspiracy, according to the filing.
John Minock, defense attorney for former Detroit Water boss Victor Mercado, said in a court filing the conversations amount to hearsay.
Ferguson allegedly extorted Lakeshore out of $1.7 million from a nearly $28 million sewer outfalls contract, according to the indictment.
He also allegedly extorted Rachmale’s company out of $5 million in work on a sewer repair contract for the city’s east side, according to the indictment.
The alleged Kilpatrick Enterprise had a unique language that, to outsiders, could seem “Top Secret.”
Everyone had a nickname. Or three.
Testimony, text messages, wiretaps and other evidence seized by FBI shed light on the secret language.
Here’s a crib sheet:
“Boss” — Term used by contractor Bobby Ferguson to refer to Kwame Kilpatrick.
“Black” — A nickname for Kilpatrick. Ferguson allegedly directed the courier Mahlon Clift to deliver $90,000 cash to Kilpatrick in fall 2008. “Hold onto it for ‘Black,’” Ferguson allegedly told him, according to testimony.
“BW” — Ferguson’s first and middle initial — the pistol-whipping demolition contractor’s middle name is Wesley. When the FBI raided his Riverfront Towers condo in September 2010, they found Ferguson dressed only in his underwear and his initials painted on the wall.
Nataki — nickname used by his mother, former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick.
“Zizwe” — the nickname Bernard Kilpatrick used as an auto signature on text messages, according to court files. He also is known as “Killer.”
“Pops” — Kwame Kilpatrick’s preferred way to refer to his father in texts.
“Slickman” — Slur Ferguson used to refer to Detroit Water boss Victor Mercado.
“Zeke” — Nickname of Kilpatrick administration official Derrick Miller. Originally charged alongside Kwame Kilpatrick, Miller plead guilty, agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and testify during the trial.