A contractor testified Friday he landed a $7 million city deal after buying suits for Kwame Kilpatrick and donating $10,000 to the mayor’s nonprofit group.
Johnson Akinwusi was the latest in a long line of contractors to testify they gave cash or valuable items to the Detroit mayor to secure or obtain city deals.
Under cross-examination, Akinwusi admitted Kilpatrick never asked him to buy the suits — and never thanked him.
Akinwusi will face additional questions from federal prosecutors when testimony resumes at 9 a.m. Monday in federal court.
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Kwame Kilpatrick never thanked a city contractor for buying his suits or acknowledged the gratuity, a businessman testified Friday.
Kilpatrick lawyer James C. Thomas tried picking apart contractor Johnson Akinwusi’s testimony that he bought suits for the mayor before winning a $7 million city deal.
Thomas suggested the purchases played no role in Akinwusi landing the deal to build Heilmann Recreation Center.
“No one asked you to do that, correct?” Thomas asked.
Kilpatrick never called to say thank you or acknowledged the purchases from Southfield haberdasher Larry Alebiosu, owner of Fashion International, Akinwusi said.
“You suspected that maybe becuase you hadn’t heard from Mr. Kilpatrick that Larry had swung with the money, correct?” Thomas asked.
“I can’t recall that,” Akinwusi said.
Kwame Kilpatrick’s lawyer grilled a Detroit contractor about claims he bought suits for the ex-mayor before landing a $7 million city deal.
Contractor Johnson Akinwusi never disclosed the suit purchases when first questioned by FBI agents this fall, attorney James C. Thomas said.
Akinwusi agreed, saying he was nervous and scared when FBI agents showed up unexpectedly at his office.
“You told them you never gave anybody in city government cash of things of value for anything, correct?” Thomas asked.
“Yes,” Akinwusi said.
Thomas then told jurors the contractor contributed at least $2,500 to the 2001 mayoral campaign of Councilman Gil Hill.
Thomas later challenged the contractor’s claims that he turned to Kilpatrick’s haberdasher, Larry Alebiosu, owner of Fashion International, for advice in landing city contracts.
“You did not need Larry Alebiosu to facilitate anything for you,” Thomas said.
“That is not correct,” Akinwusi said.
Kilpatrick’s lawyer also asked Akinwusi if the $10,000 contribution to the mayor’s nonprofit group.
Thomas asked if the payment was a bribe.
“I’m not bribing anyone,” Akinwusi said.
The $10,000, Akinwusi said, was intended to help children in the community.
Bobby Ferguson’s defense lawyer countered earlier testimony by showing jurors documents proving an executive at a Ferguson-related firm attended meetings, handled budget issues and met with subcontractors working on the $7 million Heilmann Recreation Center project.
Attorney Gerald Evelyn showed jurors meeting minutes and other documents to counter testimony from contractor Johnson Akinwusi that Ferguson’s firm Xcel Construction got paid for no-show work.
Xcel President Michael Woodhouse, in fact, attended meetings that Akinwusi skipped, Evelyn said.
Bobby Ferguson’s defense lawyer suggested his client’s construction company was added to a $7 million city deal because of race, not because of close ties to ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Attorney Gerald Evelyn tried to counter earlier testimony from JOA Construction owner Johnson Akinwusi. Akinwusi said he failed to win city contracts until he formed a joint venture with Ferguson’s company Xcel Construction.
Soon after, he won a contract to build the Heilmann Recreation Center.
Evelyn suggested Akinwusi, a minority contractor, teamed with Xcel because both firms were headed by black men and could take advantage of city laws favoring minority firms during the bidding process. The joint venture could be a “special company,” the lawyer suggested.
Akinwusi disagreed, saying Xcel and its executive Michael Woodhouse had ability and connections.
“I know Woodhouse and I know his ability,” Akinwusi testified. “That encouraged me, plus I knew Woodhouse had connections.”
Xcel did no work on the Heilmann center project but was paid $161,000, Akinwusi testified. Later, he agreed that Woodhouse had done work preparing the bid and that Xcel exec Calvin Hall did engineering work on the project.
Hall and Woodhouse were charged alongside Ferguson in a bid-rigging case that ended in a mistrial this summer. A retrial is set for later this year.
Bobby Ferguson’s company got paid more than $161,000 despite failing to work on an $8.5 million recreation center project, according to testimony Friday.
Ferguson’s firm Xcel Construction was the partner on the project with Detroit contractor Johnson Akinwusi, but did not work on the Heilmann Recreation Center or offer employees to work on the project from 2003 to 2006, Akinwusi said.
Akinwusi said he didn’t complain or push Ferguson because he feared repercussions from ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s close friend.
“Why didn’t you make them do work?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Blackwell said.
“If I didn’t pay Bobby, the job would not go,” Akinwusi said.
He also didn’t complain when Ferguson brought in his other company, Ferguson Enterprises, to work on the project as a subcontractor.
Akinwusi thought Ferguson Enterprises’ involvement was a conflict of interest.
Xcel didn’t provide bonds for the project. Akinwusi’s company did, though trouble ensued.
In 2005, Ferguson gave Akinwusi a package containing envelopes during Kilpatrick’s re-election campaign.
Akinwusi said he distributed the envelopes to his subcontractors, who filled the envelopes with money.
“How much?” Blackwell asked.
“About $32,000, plus,” he said.
Akinwusi eventually spoke to FBI agents investigating City Hall corruption.
The first time, this fall, he didn’t tell agents about paying for Kilpatrick’s suits.
“I was scared when they showed up in my office,” Akinwusi said. “I didn’t know what to do.”
A Detroit contractor whose city work dried up after Kwame Kilpatrick was elected in 2001 landed an $7 million deal after paying for the mayor’s suits and donating $10,000 to Kilpatrick’s nonprofit group.
Johnon Akinwusi said he was concerned in 2002 after being frozen out of contractor meetings. Akinwusi, head of JOA Construction, had supported Kilpatrick’s opponent, Councilman Gil Hill, during the prior year’s mayoral election.
In searching for answers, he spoke to Southfield suit maker Larry Alebiosu, owner of Fashion International.
Alebiosu has a star-studded stable of clients, including NFL stars Damien Woody, 1997 Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson — and Kilpatrick.
Alebiosu told him to write Kilpatrick a letter, and pay for Kilpatrick’s suits on layaway at Fashion International, Akinwusi testified Friday.
So Akinwusi paid $7,933 for his own suit and Kilpatrick’s suits.
“And why did you pay for the suits on layaway?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Blackwell asked.
“Because I wanted to get jobs in the city,” Akinwusi said.
Soon after, Akinwusi was invited to bid on city projects, he testified.
Then, he got solicited for cash by Kilpatrick’s Chief of Staff Christine Beatty.
She asked him to donate money to the mayor’s nonprofit group, the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.
Akinwusi donated $10,000 in May 2002.
Prosecutors allege the nonprofit group was Kilpatrick’s personal slush fund, bankrolling lavish trips and personal expenses.
Akinwusi later won an $7 million contract to build a new Heilmann Recreation Center. He won the deal after forming a joint venture with Xcel Construction, one of Bobby Ferguson’s companies.
“Why did you partner with Xcel?” Blackwell asked.
“Because I knew they were close to the mayor so I believed we had a better chance,” Akinwusi said.
The City Hall corruption trial is taking a toll — on Kwame Kilpatrick’s suits.
The fabled fashionista‘s wardrobe looked ragged Thursday.
Kilpatrick has a dizzying array of suits, ties and shoes — even hats — and rarely fails to dazzle as he sits through his public corruption trial.
But there appears to be a problem in his oversized closet.
He came to court Thursday with a visible rip in his charcoal suit; pins appeared to be keeping one sleeve together. And the cuffs of some of his pants have shown obvious wear and tear.
Despite eight weeks of trial — and a court-ordered weekend stay in Detroit, not his new home in Texas — Kilpatrick has retained his smile and affable demeanor with everyone during the trial.
If only his clothes would cooperate.