Defense lawyers tried chipping away at a government witness Thursday who testified about extortion claims and alleged strong-arm tactics involving ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and close friend Bobby Ferguson.
Ferguson’s lawyer caught witness Bernard Parker in one lie, quoted a powerful businessman’s unsavory view of Parker and accused him of lavishing pricey gifts on city officials.
Live Updates EndedPlease read below for an archived view of this event.
Bobby Ferguson’s lawyer scoffed at suggestions his client was a bad guy, shaking down contractors for cash, holding up city contracts due to his friendship with ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and threatening to put people out of work.
He wasn’t so bad that business development consultant Bernard Parker III — who made several of those allegations Wednesday — was scared to work for Ferguson, the contractor’s lawyer said Thursday.
“Even though you thought there was something illegal, extortion and threats, that didn’t deter you from going to work for him (in 2007)?” Ferguson lawyer Gerald Evelyn asked.
“I made a bad judgment,” Parker, 43, said.
Parked worked for Ferguson’s companies until 2009.
In March 2009, Parker wrote a letter to then-City Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel after she voted against two Ferguson contracts.
The letter contrasted sharply with Parker’s testimony Wednesday.
Evelyn had Parker read the letter to jurors Thursday. The letter cited Ferguson’s “quality work” and praised Ferguson’s firm as employing many Detroiters.
“Your nay vote decisions will ultimately trigger an uptick in Detroit’s unemployment rate, homelessness as well as foreclosures,” Parker wrote.
Bobby Ferguson’s lawyer caught a government witness in a lie Thursday and used it to cast doubt on his overall testimony.
Consultant Bernard Parker III was testifying about an email he wrote to his bosses in January 2005 about a request for cash from a “high-level ranking appointee in the Kilpatrick administration.”
The appointee wanted Parker’s client, Detroit contractor Insituform, to increase its financial support of the Kwame Kilpatrick administration.
“Who was the high-level appointee,” Evelyn asked.
“Bobby Ferguson,” Parker said.
Evelyn appeared shocked.
“It was not Derrick Miller?” Evelyn said, referring to the former Kilpatrick aide who struck a plea deal with prosecutors in the corruption case.
Parker insisted he was referring to Ferguson, the close friend of Kilpatrick who is accused of extorting Detroit contractors.
“You didn’t say friend of the mayor, you said high-level ranking appointee,” Evelyn said.
“Either you were lying to your bosses or to this jury,” Evelyn said.
“I lied to my bosses,” Parker said.
“Why?” Evelyn asked.
“I feared Bobby,” Parker said.
“So when it suits your purposes, you lie?” Evelyn asked.
“No sir,” Parker said.
“You did then,” Evelyn said.
“Yes sir,” Parker said.
“When you make up your mind to tell a lie, you do it when there’s an advantage for you,” Evelyn said.
“I don’t agree with your line of questioning,” Parker said.
A politically connected business consultant who is testifying for the feds wooed city officials with free concert and baseball tickets, according to testimony Thursday.
Bernard Parker III gave free tickets to Kwame Kilpatrick’s mistress and Chief of Staff Christine and her then-husband and other Kilpatrick aides, notably Derrick Miller, Kandia Milton and DeDan Milton.
The Milton brothers and Miller have been convicted of crimes during a years-long of City Hall corruption and are expected to testify during the trial.
Parker, who worked as a business development official with companies that factor into the City Hall corruption case, testified Wednesday about contractor Bobby Ferguson allegedly extorting those companies.
“You were taking them out for a good time so they would like you?” Bobby Ferguson’s lawyer Gerald Evelyn asked.
“To cultivate relationships,” Parker countered.
He also gave tickets to Miller and his wife to comedian Earthquake’s show at the Fox in April 2007.
“Who’s Earthquake?” Evelyn asked.
In May 2007, Parker gave tickets to a Detroit Water and Sewerage Department employee for a New Edition concert.
“Finally, someone I’ve heard of,” Evelyn quipped.
Evelyn’s cross examination turned testy minutes later when Parker started giving testimony without being asked a question.
“I didn’t ask you a question,” Evelyn snapped. “Are you working that hard to help the government out?”
Later, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow drew a distinction between the tickets and gifts Kilpatrick allegedly extorted from contractors such as Grosse Pointe Farms tycoon Tony Soave.
“Have you ever given cash to public officials?” Chutkow asked.
“No,” Parker said.
“No plane flights? Anything like that?” Chutkow asked.
“No,” Parker said.
“Dress suits?” Chutkow asked.
“No,” Parker said.
“Cartier watches?” the prosecutor asked.
“Absolutely not,” Parker said.
A powerful businessman whose firm factors heavily in the City Hall corruption case thought a government witness was a “bulls— artist,” Kwame Kilpatrick’s lawyer said Thursday.
Attorney James C. Thomas opened cross-examination of Bernard Parker III by trying to undercut his credibility in revealing candid thoughts of Walbridge Aldinger President John Rakolta.
Parker was hired by Walbridge in 2002 and 2006 — despite the apparent opposition of Rakolta, a national finance co-chair for failed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
“Were you aware that his opinion of you was negative and that he said you were a bulls— artist who oversold yourself?” Thomas asked.
“No,” Parker said, “but thank you for telling me.”
Prosecutors objected to the question.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds sustained the objection.
Thomas asked again, anyway.
“He said you were a bulls— artist who oversold yourself,” Thomas said.
Parker testified Wednesday about alleged extortion demands by contractor Bobby Ferguson and efforts by Kilpatrick to steer city work to his pal.
Thomas also challenged Parker about a meeting at Ferguson Enterprises in December 2005.
Parker testified Wednesday that he met with Ferguson and others on one of those days to find out why Kilpatrick allegedly had stalled a multi-million contract amendment. The feds claim Kilpatrick held up the amendment until Ferguson got more money.
Parker believed the meeting was on Dec. 23 or 24. Thomas showed jurors city documents that indicate Kilpatrick had signed off on the amendment Dec. 23.
When the document was shown initially to jurors, Parker said “wow.”
“Did you say wow because on Dec. 23 or the day before the mayor had already signed off,” on the amendment, Thomas asked.
“Yes sir,” Parker said.
Bobby Ferguson’s business headquarters is a recurring setting in the City Hall corruption trial and his earlier bid-rigging case, as cozy as The Bada Bing!, as well-armed as the “Scarface” mansion and as stocked with curious characters as the Creature Cantina from “Star Wars.”
Here’s a recap:
2001: Bobby Ferguson’s nonprofit group spent a $250,000 state grant hiring Kwame Kilpatrick’s wife and on a lavish office makeover (complete with chillin’ pad and Diff’rent Strokes-esque spiral staircase) and security system.
Circa 2007: Employee Bernard Parker III says Ferguson asked to meet him in the backyard for a private chat. Why?
“He was paranoid. He thought the federal government had bugged his office,” Parker testified Wednesday.
January 2009: The feds raid Ferguson’s offices during a bid-rigging probe. Inside Ferguson’s locked office, hidden inside a locked desk drawer, agents allegedly find a gun — a big no-no considering Ferguson pistol-whipped a man and is a convicted felon.
Ferguson allegedly phones employee Shakib Deria — aka “The African” — with an urgent demand: “Meet me in the junkyard.”
Ferguson met Deria in the nearby junkyard and asked him to tell a lie.
“There was a gun in my office and the cops are there, and I want you to tell them you put it in there,” Deria testified earlier this year during Ferguson’s $12 million bid-rigging trial in federal court.
Ferguson beat the gun charge, and more, this summer when the bid-rigging case ended in a mistrial. Ferguson and two colleagues will be retried next year.