Former Kwame Kilpatrick aide and friend Derrick Miller capped a fifth day of testimony by complaining about the effects City Hall corruption has had on his marriage and personal life.
The government’s star witness revealed he is in the midst of a divorce while facing up to 10 years in prison for his role in the corruption case. The prosecution and his work for the government has shaken his faith.
“I’m not Christian,” Miller said.
Miller faced three hours of questioning from contractor Bobby Ferguson’s lawyer, who probed payments pocketed by the high-level Kilpatrick aide and other wrongdoing.
Testimony resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday in federal court.
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Contractor Bobby Ferguson complained about “white folk” during a heated 2003 text-message exchange with his pal, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Ferguson was upset about a rival firm owing him $57,000 for work related to a parking garage at Mack and Woodward in Detroit.
“Typical white folk s—,” Ferguson texted the mayor.
The text provided a bit of emotion following star witness Derrick Miller’s five-day stint on the witness stand.
Ferguson’s use of racial terms for rival contractors was a focus of defense lawyers during the jury-selection phase. Lawyers questioned prospective jurors about the use of race-related language and asked whether the language offends them.
Former Kwame Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller chronicled the toll the City Hall corruption case and his criminal wrongdoing have taken on his personal life, saying he is going through a divorce.
“Have your legal problems impacted your family relationship?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked.
“Yes,” Miller said.
“How so?” the prosecutor asked.
“My wife and I are divorcing. That’s the biggest one because of this,” Miller said.
Prosecutors tried to clarify Miller’s testimony from last week when he said his family wasn’t the single most important thing in his life.
On Monday, Miller said his family is as important as faith, enlightenment and atoning for his criminal behavior in the City Hall corruption case. Miller admitted pocketing cash from city contractors and helping steer work to the mayor’s friend Bobby Ferguson.
Kilpatrick’s lawyer was skeptical.
“Do you think your marriage was as equally important as the other things you mentioned?” Kilpatrick lawyer James C. Thomas asked.
“They are equally important,” Miller said. “You want to get into rankings and hierarchy. That’s not the way I operate.”
“Through your conduct, you indicated a lot of things were important to you,” Thomas said. “You talked about the necessity of obtaining money from people you were working with. That was important to you.”
Thomas also questioned Miller’s faith.
“You didn’t like going to church when you were working for the administration,” Thomas said. “You said faith was as important as your son, yet you did not go to church.”
“I’m not Christian,” Miller said.
Star witness and former Kwame Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller pocketed cash for introducing a friend to several city officials, according to Bobby Ferguson’s defense lawyer.
Defense attorney Gerald Evelyn quoted excerpts from Miller’s interviews with federal agents. During the interviews, Miller described a system of selling introductions between city officials and businessman Tim Cook, who had a city deal managing the city’s real estate portfolio.
Those payments came on top of more than $500,000 Miller allegedly collected for helping Cook obtain the real-estate deal, according to testimony.
Miller admitted introducing Cook to several city officials, including employees at the Detroit Housing Commission.
“He paid you for that, is that right?” Evelyn asked.
“We talked about it, but I don’t remember if I got paid for it or not,” Miller said.
“You told the government that you got paid several thousand dollars for introducing him,” Evelyn said.
“It’s possible,” Miller said.
Miller is testifying against Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick and Ferguson in exchange for a lighter sentence. He faces up to 10 years in prison on tax and bribery charges.
Evelyn punctuated nearly three hours of cross examination by asking Miller about his earlier testimony that he warned indicted former Detroit Water boss Victor Mercado about dealing with Ferguson.
During the conversation in 2007/2008, Mercado complained to Miller about the difficulty of dealing with Ferguson. Miller warned him to be careful, that dealing with Ferguson might lead to law enforcement trouble.
Mercado struck a plea deal with prosecutors weeks into the City Hall corruption trial and is awaiting sentencing.
“You were involved in substantial bribe taking and bribe paying and you are going to warn Mr. Mercado about danger? Is that your testimony?” Evelyn asked.
“Yes,” Miller said.
Star witness Derrick Miller didn’t remember going to a 2007 comedy concert in Detroit with a political insider accused of wining and dining city officials.
Questioning Monday harkened back to testimony last month from consultant Bernard Parker III, who worked for several firms allegedly extorted by contractor Bobby Ferguson.
The cross examination offered a humorous moment during an otherwise mundane breakdown of city contracts.
Last month, Parker said he gave free tickets to Kwame Kilpatrick’s mistress and Chief of Staff Christine Beatty and her then-husband and other Kilpatrick aides, notably Miller, Kandia Milton and DeDan Milton.
Emails shown to jurors Monday indicated Parker arranged for free tickets for Miller to see comedian Earthquake at the Fox Theatre in Detroit.
“Do you recall attending the concert?” Ferguson lawyer Gerald Evelyn asked Miller.
“No,” Miller said. “I’m pretty sure I didn’t go. I don’t even like Earthquake.”
Bobby Ferguson saved the city money, did good work and helped revamp Cobo Center for less money than budgeted, according to testimony Monday.
Defense lawyer Gerald Evelyn showed jurors city records from June 2003 in hopes of countering allegations that Ferguson was a crooked contractor who kicked back cash to ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
The city records were from a 2003 Detroit Building Authority meeting in June 2003.
One of Ferguson’s companies and a partner were awarded a $2.22 million contract at Cobo. The project came in $338,000 under budget.
In the minutes, a city staffer praised Ferguson’s firm and its partner, saying they did an “excellent job on this time-sensitive project …”
The city of Detroit is notorious for delaying payment to contractors, but one white mogul’s firm didn’t have to wait long.
Grosse Pointe Farms tycoon Tony Soave’s former water city contracting company Inland Waters collected more than $137 million on a sewer deal from 2002 to 2004.
During a cross-examination that focused heavily on race, Bobby Ferguson’s lawyer showed jurors a list of invoices and payments to counter claims Ferguson reaped millions illegally and benefited from close ties to former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
“One thing the city is known for is taking a long time for people to be paid, isn’t that right?” defense lawyer Gerald Evelyn said. “That didn’t happen with Inland. Monthly invoices, monthly payments without interruption, correct?”
“That’s correct,” Miller said.
Soave also testified he took Kilpatrick and a mistress on a New York City shopping spree. During the trip, Soave bought a $6,000 Cartier watch for the mayor’s dad and co-defendant, Bernard Kilpatrick.
Bobby Ferguson had access to his pal, ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, no different than white prominent businessman like auto tycoon Roger Penske and Compuware boss Peter Karmanos, his lawyer said.
Defense lawyer Gerald Evelyn countered testimony from Derrick Miller about Ferguson’s close ties to the former mayor.
Ferguson had access to Kilpatrick because he volunteered on the mayor’s pet projects and was a prominent contractor, his lawyer said. Prosecutors, however, say Ferguson got $60 million in city deals illegally because he kicked back money to Kilpatrick and sometimes was paid for doing no-show work.
Ferguson wasn’t the only businessman who could call and quickly meet with the Detroit mayor.
“If Roger Penske called and wanted to see the mayor, that could happen, right?” Evelyn asked.
“Correct,” Miller said.
“Did you ever participate in any of those meetings with Mr. Penske?” Evelyn asked.
“Yes,” Miller said.
“Mr. Karmanos would call and meet with Mr. Kilpatrick to discuss business,” Evelyn said.
“That’s right,” Miller said.
Evelyn also showed jurors city records indicating Ferguson was not alone in padding the value of contracts by receiving change orders approved by City Council.
The change orders were approved because the original contract grew in scope and time.
Derrick Miller admitted he never got a tour of Bobby Ferguson’s offices, which underwent a renovation bankrolled by a state grant supported by his pal, Kwame Kilpatrick.
Ferguson’s lawyer Gerald Evelyn tried to undercut earlier testimony from Miller that he never saw any training facilities, which would have been an appropriate expense. Instead, prosecutors allege Ferguson fixed the roof and renovated his private office.
“Did you ever go into Mr. Ferguson’s office and ask to be shown where the trainees and interns worked?” Evelyn asked.
“No,” Miller said.
Evelyn also attacked the significance of an ID badge that gave Ferguson access to the mayor’s private office on the 11th floor of city hall. Prosecutors allege the badge reflected unparalleled access to the mayor’s office for a city contractor.
Evelyn also suggested another contractor had an ID badge like Ferguson’s, which was issued for volunteering on the Motor City Makeover, a city cleanup project.
Ferguson donated use of his construction trucks for the Motor City Makeover and helped save the city millions.
There was plenty about Kilpatrick’s pal and co-defendant Bobby Ferguson, whose lawyer gets to cross-examine the government’s star witness today. Miller’s testimony was tailored to address the premier charge in the City Hall corruption trial: racketeering conspiracy, a 20-year felony.
Kilpatrick allegedly ran a criminal racket inside City Hall, helping steer work to Ferguson, whose demolition firm reaped millions in taxpayer dollars, some of which ended up in the Detroit mayor’s pockets, according to prosecutors.
Here are some Ferguson-related highlights from Miller’s testimony:
• “We were supposed to help Bobby,” Miller said.
• Ferguson allegedly spent about $100,000 in state grant money turning his Detroit office into a chilling pad.
• The mayor, Ferguson and others allegedly hatched schemes during “kitchen cabinet” meetings in the Manoogian Mansion basement and at Bernard Kilpatrick’s crib.
• Ferguson fed into the mayor’s paranoia about the feds, Miller said.