Day 54: Undercover video unspooling soon

A defense lawyer tried to portray contractor Bobby Ferguson’s relationship with Kwame Kilpatrick as normal, considering powerful white contractors also had direct access to the Detroit mayor.

The focus on Ferguson’s relationship with Kilpatrick came as court watchers anticipated testimony from Synagro scandal figure James R. Rosendall Jr.

Rosendall is a West Michigan businessman whose undercover skills were last seen in 2011, when The News obtained FBI surveillance video showing him handing a city official a $2,000 payoff.

James R. Rosendall Jr.

James R. Rosendall Jr.

The video gave the public its first glimpse of public corruption in action.

Rosendall’s testimony in the City Hall corruption trial will mark a shift back to Bernard Kilpatrick, the ex-mayor’s father.

Rosendall made a cameo during opening statements, when prosecutors played a snippet of another hidden video. In the video, Bernard Kilpatrick tells Rosendall not to give him money in public.

Prosecutors also showed jurors a surveillance photo of Rosendall carrying a box while walking with Bernard Kilpatrick. The box contained a bribe for Bernard Kilpatrick — a case of Cristal champagne, according to the feds.

John Clark

John Clark

Rosendall is the former Synagro Technologies Inc. vice president who became an FBI informant in exchange for an 11-months bribery sentence.

In one FBI video, Rosendall handed a wad of cash to John Clark, an aide to City Councilman Kenneth Cockrel Jr., in 2008.

“Woo-hoo,” Clark says after counting out $2,000. “You helped me out, man.”

The money was a reward for Clark getting the Synagro contract on the City Council agenda and helping rally community support, according to the FBI.

Clark was convicted of lying to the FBI and was sentenced to five months in federal prison and five months of home confinement.

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Bobby Ferguson and Kwame Kilpatrick

Bobby Ferguson and Kwame Kilpatrick

Bobby Ferguson had access to his pal, ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, but so did several powerful white businessmen, according to testimony Tuesday.

Grosse Pointe Farms tycoon Tony Soave and Walbridge Aldinger CEO John Rakolta had scheduled meetings with Kilpatrick, including intimate discusssions at the Manoogian Mansion.

Tony Soave

Tony Soave

Defense lawyer Michael Rataj tried to blunt the close ties between Ferguson and Kilptrick, and show their relationship was not unusual among city contractors.

Rataj showed jurors pages of Kilpatrick’s calendar, showing he was set to meet at the Manoogian Mansion with Rakolta, a powerful construction company executive who was a finance chair for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

Earlier testimony showed Soave also met with Kilpatrick at the contractor’s Grosse Pointe Farms mansion. Soave previously testified he provided almost $400,000 worth of free flights to Kilpatrick and others to protect city deals, and ensure future ones.

“In general, the contracting business is based, in part, on relationships, would you agree?” Rataj asked FBI Special Agent Robert Beeckman.

“It can play a role,” the agent said.

Prosecutors allege Kilpatrick steered city contracts to Ferguson, who shared proceeds with the Detroit mayor.

Bernard Kilpatrick, left, and son Kwame Kilpatrick.

Bernard Kilpatrick, left, and son Kwame Kilpatrick.

Kwame Kilpatrick and his dad took $100,000 worth of private jet flights from a Synagro executive in exchange for supporting a $1.2 billion sludge deal, according to prosecutors.

And Bernard Kilpatrick allegedly tried to extort $5,000 from the Synagro executive, James R. Rosendall Jr., who is expected to testify soon about payments he allegedly made to the former Detroit mayor and others.

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’s ties to Kwame Kilpatrick date to the ex-mayor’s stint as a state lawmaker. In 2001, Rosendall told Kwame Kilpatrick that Synagro wanted to take over the sludge hauling contract with Detroit.

James R. Rosendall Jr.

James R. Rosendall Jr.

Rosendall gave Kilpatrick and an aide three campaign checks totaling more than $10,000.

In 2003, during a fundraiser at the Manoogian Mansion, the mayor allegedly told Rosendall to work with his dad.

“Rosendall understood this to mean that KWAME KILPATRICK wanted Rosendall to hire BERNARD KILPATRICK.”

According to the indictment:

“BERNARD KILPATRICK spent little time helping to obtain the approval of the (Detroit Water and Sewerage Department) or the Detroit City Council for the sludge contract, although he periodically would ask Rosendall for money, including requests for ‘loans,’ totaling at least $25,000, which were never repaid.”

Derrick Miller

Derrick Miller

Then, the wining and dining allegedly started.

“In or about the fall of 2003, Rosendall chartered a private jet costing more than $19,000 to take KWAME KILPATRICK, (aide Derrick) Miller and several of their associates to Las Vegas over the weekend of September 12, 2003. Rosendall spent more than $2,000 entertaining the group while in Las Vegas. Neither KILPATRICK, Miller, nor their associates reimbursed Rosendall for the flight or the other expenses.”

In spring 2004, Rosendall chartered a private jet — at a cost of more than $15,000 — to take Miller and others to Las Vegas.

“Rosendall spent more than $4,000 for food, lodging and entertainment for the group while in Las Vegas. Neither Miller nor his associates reimbursed Rosendall for the flight or the other expenses.”

Over the next two years, Rosendall gave tens of thousands of dollars to the mayor’s political action committee, nonprofit group, inaugural committee and $10,000 to his dad, according to prosecutors.

Then, Bernard Kilpatrick’s girlfriend got involved, prosecutors said.

“BERNARD KILPATRICK instructed Rosendall that his girlfriend, rather than BERNARD KILPATRICK, should be named in any (Synagro) contracts involving BERNARD KILPATRICK to conceal BERNARD KILPATRICK’s role.”

In June 2007, Rosendall flew the mayor and his dad on a private chartered plane to Mackinac Island.

Rayford Jackson

Rayford Jackson

That same month, the water department approved Synagro’s contract.

In November, Kwame Kilpatrick signed off on the deal.

In December 2007, during a meeting at a Birmingham restaurant, Bernard Kilpatrick allegedly told Rosendall he had an unwritten agreement with Synagro’s local partner Rayford Jackson.

The deal gave Bernard Kilpatrick 45 percent of Jackson’s profits from the deal, according to the indictment.

Bernard Kilpatrick told Rosendall his girlfriend was supposed to get 10 percent, according to prosecutors.

The mayor’s dad also tried to extort Rosendall during a meeting in a Detroit parking lot on Dec. 20, 2007, the feds said.


Bernard Kilpatrick threatened to kill the Synagro deal unless he was properly compensated. So Rosendall gave him $300, hidden in a pack of chewing gum, according to prosecutors.

In March 2008, outside Bernard Kilpatrick’s house, the mayor’s dad demanded more cash, according to the indictment.

“BERNARD KILPATRICK held up five fingers, indicating he wanted Rosendall to give him $5,000. Later that day, BERNARD KILPATRICK took $2,500 in cash from Rosendall, saying he was ‘the one guy that made [the sludge contract] happen’ and confirming that if he had not been paid, he would have told KWAME KILPATRICK, ‘Do what you can to stop it [the sludge contract] for a year. Stop it for two years.'”

Finally, Bernard Kilpatrick took $2,500 in cash from Rosendall during an April 2008 meeting in a restaurant parking lot in Southfield, according to prosecutors.

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