Day 50: Flying high, crashing hard and fresh legal woes

Star witness Derrick Miller told jurors about free private jet flights bankrolled by city contractors, Kwame Kilpatrick’s attempts to steer work to pal Bobby Ferguson and the death of his friendship with the former Detroit mayor.

Outside court, meanwhile, Kilpatrick faced fresh legal woes after failing to disclose a $2,000 gift from a Chicago pastor.

Miller spent a second day testifying about the inner workings of an alleged criminal racket headed by Kilpatrick.

The trial will take a one-day break before Miller returns to the witness stand at 9 a.m. Thursday.

Updates have ended

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Derrick Miller, left, outside federal court with lawyer Byron Pitts.

Derrick Miller, left, outside federal court with lawyer Byron Pitts.

They were groomsman, pals since high school at Cass Tech but rumors were swirling by summer 2007 that Derrick Miller was cooperating with an FBI probe of City Hall and Kwame Kilpatrick.

Miller, the mayor’s most trusted aide, wanted to prove his loyalty but rumors intensified when he decided to quit the Kilpatrick administration.

Amid the rumors, Miller met with Kilpatrick at a downtown breakfast spot along Woodward.

“I just told him you’re hearing a kind of nonsense about me, and whether or not I’m loyal or working with the feds. I basically put that to rest,” Miller testified. “He said, ‘I know.'”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow

After Miller quit in fall 2007, his relationship with Kilpatrick withered.

“After you left, did you maintain a relationship with the mayor?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked.

“Some relationship, yes,” Miller said.

“Did you socialize much?” the prosecutor asked.

“Not much,” Miller said.

Miller made one last attempt to prove his loyalty.

He wrote a $10,000 check to Kilpatrick’s nonprofit group on June 25, 2008, during a fundraiser at the Atheneum Suite Hotel.

“I just wanted to show my support,” Miller said.

Miller said he never cooperated with the feds or wore a hidden recording device or cooperated with the feds — until after being indicted on racketeering charges in December 2010.

Miller struck a plea deal with prosecutors the following year and agreed to testify in hopes of receiving a lighter prison sentence.

Prosecutors turned their focus to the tainted Synagro Technologies sludge contract and a company executive who lavished free private jet flights and other perks on Kwame Kilpatrick and his father.

James R. Rosendall Jr.

James R. Rosendall Jr.

Former Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller testified about his interactions with Synagro Vice President James R. Rosendall Jr. and consultant Rayford Jackson. Both men were convicted in connection with an FBI probe of City Hall corruption.

According to prosecutors, Rosendall allegedly provided at least $100,000 in cash, private jet flights and entertainment for the mayor and his father Bernard Kilpatrick.

Bernard Kilpatrick also tried to extort $5,000 from Rosendall, according to prosecutors.

From the indictment:

“In about 2008, BERNARD KILPATRICK attempted to extort $5,000 from Rosendall by threatening to “kill” the sludge contract if he was not paid.”

Rosendall became an FBI informant while pushing his company’s attempt to land a $1.2 billion sewage sludge disposal contract.

He helped the FBI secretly record a City Council official pocketing bribes.

Monica Conyers.

Monica Conyers.

The Texas company was awarded the Detroit contract on a split city council vote in 2007. He got 11 months after pleading guilty to bribery.

Former Detroit City Council President Monica Conyers cast the deciding vote in favor of the Synagro deal and later struck a plea-bargain on bribery conspiracy charges.

She was sentenced to 37 months in prison and was released from federal prison last month.

Kwame Kilpatrick

Kwame Kilpatrick

Kwame Kilpatrick bragged about flying on Grosse Pointe Farms businessman Tony Soave’s private jet to the Bahamas during the nationwide blackout in 2003.

“This private plane is the s—,” Kilpatrick wrote in a text message sent to  trusted aide Derrick Miller.

The text emerged as prosecutors questioned Miller about the mayor’s use of private jet flights provided by city contractors. Soave testified earlier he was extorted by Kilpatrick and provided almost $400,000 worth of free flights.

 Kwame and Carlita Kilpatrick check in  with their three sons at the American Airlines ticket counter at Detroit Metro on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008. (Velvet S. McNeil / The Detroit News)

Kwame and Carlita Kilpatrick check in with their three sons at the American Airlines ticket counter at Detroit Metro on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008. (Velvet S. McNeil / The Detroit News)

The mayor’s family also traveled on Soave’s jets.

In April 2004, first lady Carlita Kilpatrick asked Miller to find out about the jet’s amenities ahead of a trip to Florida, where the Kilpatrick’s owned a vacation home.

“Does the plane we are on have a VCR or DVD player on it?” Carlita Kilpatrick wrote in an April 12, 2004, text message.

“Let me check,” Miller responded.

Miller also testified about flying for free to Bermuda with Kilpatrick, contractor pal Bobby Ferguson and others.

Kilpatrick was supposed to meet with the minister of tourism while in Bermuda.

“What about the rest of you?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked.

“The rest of us?” Miller asked. “We were just going.”

Chauncey Mayfield

Chauncey Mayfield

Miller also testified about flying to Las Vegas in April 2007 aboard a private jet with Kilpatrick, indicted ex-Detroit Treasurer Jeff Beasley and others.

The trip cost more than $16,000 and was paid for by Detroit businessman Chauncey Mayfield, according to Miller.

Mayfield paid for the group to go golfing, travel by limousine, attend a Prince concert and get massages, prosecutors allege.

Mayfield was indicted last month in connection with an ongoing FBI probe of the city’s pension funds.

In all, Mayfield is accused of providing Kilpatrick and Beasley with $125,000 worth of private jet flights, concert tickets, steakhouse dinners, golf trips and VIP hotel rooms.

Kwame Kilpatrick

Kwame Kilpatrick

Kwame Kilpatrick made his $500 restitution payment in December one day after pocketing a $2,000 gift from a Chicago pastor, The News has learned.

The detail emerged Tuesday amid fallout from an undisclosed gift that could end up with Kilpatrick being punished by state prison officials.

The state Corrections Department told The News that Kilpatrick collected a $2,000 wire transfer payment at a Chesterfield Township Walmart on Dec. 11.

The next day, Kilpatrick made a $500 restitution payment, according to Wayne County Circuit Court records.

Kilpatrick failed to disclose the gift from Chicago Pastor Corey Brooks and the state is mulling possible punishment. Kilpatrick is required to report gifts because the money could be applied toward the $855,000 restitution the former mayor owes Detroit stemming from the text-message scandal.

Kwame Kilpatrick

Kwame Kilpatrick

The state Department of Corrections is mulling potential punishment for Kwame Kilpatrick because he failed to report a $2,000 gift from a Chicago pastor, The News has learned.

Kilpatrick is required to report gifts as a condition of his parole, because the money could be used toward satisfying the $855,062 in restitution the former mayor owes the city. But Kilpatrick did not disclose it to state prison officials last month, prisons spokesman Russ Marlan said Tuesday.

“We haven’t imposed a sanction yet as we’re still investigating the details surrounding this transaction,” Marlan wrote in an email to The News on Tuesday.

News of the gift emerged late Monday.

Kilpatrick sent a letter to supporters last month asking for money, saying his family was broke and needed money around the holidays, according to a Chicago TV station.

Santa brought Kilpatrick's kids gifts that included new shoes and keyboard.

Santa brought Kilpatrick’s kids gifts that included new shoes and keyboard.

Chicago Pastor Corey Brooks wired $2,000 to Kilpatrick in early December. The former Detroit mayor traveled all the way to a Walmart in Chesterfield Township to pick up the money Dec. 11, Marlan told The News.

Afterward, Kilpatrick posted photos on Facebook showing his family opening Christmas presents in front of a towering Christmas tree and posted comments about a  lavish spread cooked by his wife Carlita.

Kilpatrick Tweeted his thanks last night.

This could be the second time in recent weeks that Kilpatrick has violated parole conditions imposed following the text-message scandal.

Kilpatrick’s parole agent barred him from traveling to Texas last month because he made a late $500 restitution payment to the city. Kilpatrick also failed to prove he was performing community service each month.

Bobby Ferguson

Bobby Ferguson

Bobby Ferguson had a blunt response when a rival firm complained about being pressured to give his firm a piece of a city contract.

“Screw him,” former Kwame Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller testified Tuesday.

Former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick

Former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick

The exchange followed Lakeshore Engineering’s attempt to enlist the aid of Kilpatrick’s mother, then-U.S. Rep. Carlita Cheeks Kilpatrick.

Lakeshore executive Thomas Hardiman, a family friend, had sought out her help after learning a $10 million sewer lining contract tentatively awarded to Lakeshore had been held up.

Hardiman testified earlier that the contract was held up after Lakeshore offered Ferguson a 10 percent cut of the contract. Ferguson had asked for 25 percent.

When Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked Miller how Ferguson responded, he began to smile, a departure from his typically straight-faced appearance.

“Basically he just said, “screw him,” Miller said.

He said the then told former Detroit water boss Victor Mercado, formerly a co-defendant in the case until he pleaded guilty in November, to hold up the Lakeshore contract at Kilpatrick’s request.

Mercado, who complained that Ferguson was “aggressive,” responded: “OK, Miller said.

Kwame Kilpatrick left gestures to passers by as he and Ferguson leave federal court Aug. 8.

Kwame Kilpatrick left gestures to passers by as he and Ferguson leave federal court Aug. 8.

Kwame Kilpatrick brought his pal Bobby Ferguson along during a 2003 city business trip to Puerto Rico in hopes of securing work for the Detroit contractor, according to testimony.

Former Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller was on the trip along with Detroit Water boss Victor Mercado and mayoral aide DeDan Milton.

Mercado previously operated a water treatment facility in Puerto Rico and the city officials wanted to get an up-close look at the operations.

“Did the mayor ever tell you why Mr. Ferguson was coming along?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked Miller.

“He wanted Mr. Ferguson and Mr. Mercado to have a good relationship,” Miller said.

The move failed.

Victor Mercado

Victor Mercado

Mercado complained to Miller about Ferguson demanding additional city work, costly change orders that padded contracts, Miller said.

Ferguson also frequently complained to the mayor about the amount of work awarded to his firm.

“(Mercado) was shaken by it,” Miller said.

Mercado struck a plea deal in November — almost two months into the corruption trial — and admitted he conspired with Kilpatrick to steer city contracts to Ferguson. He is awaiting sentencing.

Kwame Kilpatrick, left, and Bobby Ferguson, outside federal court.

Kwame Kilpatrick, left, and Bobby Ferguson, outside federal court.

Kwame Kilpatrick ordered an underling to call a water department contractor in early 2002 and get pal Bobby Ferguson a piece of a $50 million city deal, according to testimony.

Soave

Soave

Former Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller said he was directed to call contractor Inland Waters and try to get Ferguson added as a subcontractor on the deal, according to testimony. Inland was owned by Grosse Pointe Farms tycoon Tony Soave.

“What did (Kilpatrick) ask you to say to Inland Waters?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked Miller.

“To talk to them about getting participation for Mr. Ferguson,” Miller said.

The testimony backed up allegations earlier in the trial from Soave and his executive Kathleen McCann.

They testified about the water deal, which stalled until Kilpatrick allegedly told Soave to dump his minority subcontractor and hire Ferguson.

Miller also confirmed he met with McCann in Mackinac Island in 2002 and asked her whether the firm had agreed to hire Ferguson.

McCann testified last month that she felt intimidated and that Inland Waters was pressured into a “forced marriage” with Ferguson. On Tuesday, Miller agreed.

“She was very curt,” Miller said, “she seemed a little agitated.”

Inland later hired Ferguson.

Last month, McCann said Ferguson was “troubling,” demanded a 3 percent profit and would have been dumped if he wasn’t tight with the mayor.

The “marriage” was so toxic McCann said she and colleagues documented threats and pressure from Ferguson in a diary, figuring some day “we would be telling the story.”

Kwame Kilpatrick’s pal Bobby Ferguson wielded so much power inside City Hall that he controlled which contractors received taxpayer-funded work, according to testimony.

Derrick Miller testified Ferguson was involved in a beef in 2004 with rival contractor John Adamo, who headed a Detroit demolition firm.

John Adamo

John Adamo

Adamo complained to Miller.

“He felt like he was having a hard time getting business for demolition in Detroit,” Miller testified. “He also expressed to me he didn’t necessarily have a great relationship with Mr. Ferguson and that might be the cause for his work not continuing.”

Miller talked to Ferguson about the beef.

“His response was that they had bad blood, the companies were always competing for projects,” Miller said. “He said Adamo was not to be trusted.”

Prosecutors showed jurors text messages exchanged between Ferguson and Kilpatrick.

“Don’t…let Adamo in,” Ferguson texted the mayor July 21, 2004. “We can’t trust them and they bad mouthing all of us.”

“What?” Kilpatrick texted in response.

“Adamo demolition. (Miller) will be coming to you about helping them but it’s not cool. I don’t trust them and they lost. That’s the bottom line. Everyone bidded and they lost.”

Kwame Kilpatrick and Bobby Ferguson outside federal court.

Kwame Kilpatrick and Bobby Ferguson outside federal court.

Kwame Kilpatrick, hoping to capitalize on the money flowing through the Detroit Building Authority and valuable contracts, stocked the board with friends and family, according to testimony.

Star witness Derrick Miller said the mayor tapped his cousin Ayanna Benson to oversee the department and appointed his mistress Christine Beatty and high school friend Miller to the board.

Christine Beatty

Christine Beatty

The board furthered Kilpatrick’s focus on steering work to his pal and co-defendant in the corruption trial, contractor Bobby Ferguson, Miller testified.

“(Kilpatrick) understood the power and authority of the Building Authority and the thought was that’s something the mayor would want to have a tight rein on,” Miller said Tuesday.

One project allegedly steered to Ferguson was a $7 million deal to build the Heilmann Recreation Center, according to testimony.

Westin Book Cadillac hotel

Westin Book Cadillac hotel

Kilpatrick took the same approach to the city’s Downtown Development Authority and the renovation of the Book Cadillac hotel downtown.

“(Kilpatrick) saw it as a significant project for the administration and sort of a flagship and he wanted to make sure Bobby Ferguson participated,” Miller said.

Kwame Kilpatrick outside federal court Monday.

Kwame Kilpatrick outside federal court Monday.

A Chicago pastor gave Kwame Kilpatrick $2,000 cash after the former Detroit mayor begged for Christmas money, according to a televised report.

The money might explain how Kilpatrick, who owes creditors $1.8 million, filled Santa’s bag and afforded a lavish Christmas feast for his family, including his indicted father Bernard.

From the Fox 32 News report late Monday:

Kilpatrick was caught on a Wal-Mart security camera last December, counting out $2,000 in cash he just received from a wire transfer. The man who sent him the money? Pastor Corey Brooks, a prodigious fundraiser and growing leader in Chicago’s religious community.

“He didn’t render any sort of work for it. It was a gift. It was a benevolence gift,” Brooks insists. “It was a Christmas gift.”

Brooks says he wired Kilpatrick the money after Kilpatrick sent him this letter pleading for help.

In the letter, Kilpatrick says his family was wiped out by legal fees.

“We have now come to a critical moment in this journey where we must now reach out to our close friends and associates for financial assistance. We are hurting really bad.”

Kwame Kilpatrick flanked by, from left, father Bernard, sister Ayanna and mother Carolyn.

Kwame Kilpatrick flanked by, from left, father Bernard, sister Ayanna and mother Carolyn.

Define hurting. The Kilpatrick clan celebrated Christmas at the family’s 5,000-square-foot home in Grand Prairie, Texas. Under the tree, a keyboard, new shoes and more…

Kilpatrick also flies for almost free between his Texas home and Detroit on weekends and was living rent-free at a luxury Detroit hotel — until we started asking questions.

Here’s the kicker:

“Part of his parole conditions are that he has to report any income, gifts he receives to us during the month. The problem is he reported zero dollars in income, zero dollars in gifts in the month of December.”

Kwame Kilpatrick's fundraiser, Emma Bell, leaves federal courthouse Thursday after an explosive day of testimony. (David Coates / The Detroit News)

Kwame Kilpatrick’s fundraiser, Emma Bell, leaves federal courthouse earlier in the trial after an explosive day of testimony. (David Coates / The Detroit News)

Star witness Derrick Miller got the rock star treatment from the feds Monday.

Miller was ushered in and out of federal court, which spared him from having to face a pack of reporters stationed along Fort and Lafayette.

What’s that worth? Ask Emma Bell.

Kwame Kilpatrick

Kwame Kilpatrick

During his long-awaited debut, Miller came across not as a Kwame Kilpatrick fanboy or a jilted crony thrown off the gravy train. His testimony was bloodless and delivered in a steady tone.

The closest Miller came to emotion was when Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked about Kilpatrick’s reaction to being handed a cash payoff from a city contractor.

“He’d take it — what do you mean?” Miller said.

“Did he say anything?” the prosecutor asked.

“Cool,” Miller said.

Robert Snell
Robert Snell is the Detroit News federal courts reporter. He can be reached at rsnell@detnews.com or (313) 222-2028.