Prosecutors accused Bobby Ferguson of doctoring records, slurring a rival black contractor and doing shoddy work on some of Detroit’s most important construction projects, including the Book Cadillac hotel.
Ferguson also threatened rivals over his close ties to ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and prevented black contractor Odell Jones from securing city deals after one dispute.
Text messages shown to jurors Wednesday also revealed Kilpatrick and Ferguson joked about Jones and his unsuccessful attempts to get back into Ferguson’s good graces.
Jones’ testimony addressed a central aspect of Ferguson’s defense: that he was a benevolent man who was concerned about fellow black contractors in Detroit.
Testimony resumes at 9 a.m. Thursday in federal court.
Live Updates EndedPlease read below for an archived view of this event.
Jurors in the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial complained Wednesday about being bitten by bugs inside federal court.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds asked lawyers and defendants involved in the case if they also had been bitten by a “little biting insect.”
“Some of the jurors have had problems getting bitten by, maybe a fly, or jumping insect,” Edmunds said.
Edmunds had the jury room sprayed for insects following complaints.
Several people inside the judge’s courtroom started laughing.
“Sorry, I mean, I guess it’s funny,” the judge said. “At least you’re laughing about it.”
Bobby Ferguson, a close friend of ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, called a fellow black contractor a “punk” and “puppet of the white man” in 2003 amid problems renovating the Book Cadillac hotel in downtown Detroit.
Contractor Odell Jones described a tense meeting in fall 2003 after the state Department of Environmental Quality found seven violations stemming from Ferguson’s work removing asbestos from the aging hotel.
Jones’ testimony was aimed at portraying Ferguson as a scheming pal of the former Detroit mayor who used those ties to prevent a fellow black contractor from winning city projects.
Amid the asbestos concerns, Jones met with Ferguson downtown in a parking lot to tell him about the violations.
“He indicated I had become a punk and a puppet of the white man,” Jones testified.
“What was your response?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Doeh asked.
“Probably disbelief,” Jones said.
“Did he suggest how the violations could be taken care of?” Doeh asked.
“He told me he would have the mayor call the governor,” Jones said.
Jones was concerned about work performed by Ferguson’s company on the Book Cadillac.
His employees did not have the proper equipment to remove asbestos, including respirators and protective suits.
Jones told him about the lack of safety equipment.
“What was Mr. Ferguson’s reaction?” Doeh asked.
“He was ambivalent,” Jones said. “He didn’t seem to care.”
After the Book Cadillac project, Jones said his city work evaporated.
Jones said he complained to Kilpatrick’s mother, sister and aides Christine Beatty and Derrick Miller.
The talks went nowhere even though Jones contributed money to Kilpatrick’s election and gave $10,000 to help renovate the Manoogian Mansion.
Jones’ money helped turn a room at the mayor’s official residence into a nursery for Kilpatrick’s children.
Jones took his complaints to the mayor. Again, the talks went nowhere.
What Jones didn’t know was that Ferguson and Kilpatrick were talking about him behind his back.
Prosecutors showed jurors text messages Wednesday from November 2003.
“Odell Jones (called) your mama, lol,” Ferguson texted.
“I know. And my sister,” Kilpatrick responded.
“Ok, I thought it was funny,” Ferguson wrote, “…I know he wasn’t s—.”
Two of the lead federal agents who investigated contractor Bobby Ferguson in a $12 million bid-rigging case were spotted inside federal court Wednesday, the day grand juries typically hear criminal allegations.
The sightings of agents from the FBI and U.S. Housing and Urban Development came as Ferguson’s lawyers expect additional charges to be filed ahead of Ferguson being retried in the bid-rigging case in April. The sightings also came as Ferguson stands trial in the City Hall corruption trial alongside ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick on the 8th floor of federal court.
The bid-rigging case against Ferguson ended in a mistrial last summer.
Earlier this month, Ferguson asked to delay the retrial, in part, because the City Hall corruption trial is taking too long and because the government might file new charges.
In the bid-rigging case, Ferguson and two others faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted of charges that included conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Ferguson also faced two gun charges.
Ferguson was accused of falsifying bids, laundering money and dumping debris on the grounds of the old Herman Gardens public housing site on the west side.
Prosecutors portrayed Ferguson as a crooked contractor who used his connections and longtime friendship with Kilpatrick to win millions in city contracts.
Bobby Ferguson flaunted his friendship with Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and used their ties to threaten rival contractors, according to testimony Wednesday.
Ferguson prominently displayed Kilpatrick’s photo in his office, alongside pictures of Ferguson’s children and photos of the mayor’s mistress, Christine Beatty. And he involved Kilpatrick in a dispute over a Detroit Public Schools project early in the mayor’s first term.
Contractor Odell Jones testified about his interactions with Ferguson, who worked as a subcontractor on a project involving Taft Schultz school in Detroit.
Jones managed a $1.5 billion bond proposal to improve school buildings in Detroit. Ferguson worked as a subcontractor for the firm Turner Construction.
Turner got into a fee dispute with Ferguson and thought Ferguson was overcharging for work. The dispute stalled construction.
Jones investigated and agreed Ferguson was charging too much.
He met with Ferguson and told the contractor he was charging too much.
“At the end of the conversation, he said ‘well, go on strong black man,’” Jones testified. “I thought he was just being silly.”
“Did you laugh?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Doeh asked.
“No,” Jones said.
Before Jones could make a decision, Ferguson wrote Turner a letter — and sent a copy to Kilpatrick.
Ferguson faxed Jones the letter.
“I became very upset,” Jones said. “I told him I didn’t think that behavior was appropriate.”
Bobby Ferguson’s excavation company submitted records indicating it worked on a Sterling Heights sewer collapse in March 2004 — five months before the sewer collapsed.
Prosecutors introduced recently unearthed documents indicating Ferguson’s firm submitted doctored documents to justify receiving $350,000 in alleged no-show payments on a massive public works project stemming from the August 2004 sinkhole collapse.
Ferguson’s firm created documents indicating they worked on the project in March 2004, according to testimony.
Walter Rozycki, who oversaw daily work on the project for contractor Inland Waters, noted the discrepancy Wednesday.
“The sinkhole hadn’t happened yet,” he said.
Ferguson’s firm also submitted allegedly phony documents claiming the company installed valves while working as a subcontractor for Inland Waters in August 2004.
Impossible, Rozycki testified.
Ferguson’s company claimed to have installed the valves within days of the August collapse.
“Could that have been possible?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Blackwell asked.
“No,” Rozycki said.
The valves couldn’t be installed until the following month, September 2004, after trenches were dug and other work performed, he testified.
Rozycki was project manager for the sinkhole repairs, and, interestingly, donated $1,000 to the political campaign of Kilpatrick’s mother, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, weeks before the sewer collapse.
Ferguson’s lawyers tried to blunt Rozycki’s testimony.
“You are not qualified to enter testimony about the authenticity of documents, are you?” Ferguson lawyer Michael Rataj asked.
“No,” Rozycki said.
Ferguson’s lawyer challenged Rozycki’s memory during a snarky exchange.
“Sir, do you remember what you were wearing on Sept. 23, 2004?” Rataj said.
“Blue jeans,” Rozycki said.
“What did you have to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner?” the lawyer asked.
“I didn’t have breakfast,” Rozycki said.
“You remember that?” the lawyer asked.
“Vividly,” Rozycki said.
“So you have a memory that’s photographic?” Rataj asked.
“No, not photographic,” Rozycki said.
“Let’s get serious for a minute,” the lawyer said. “You can’t remember day-by-day what happened almost nine years ago.”
“Correct,” the contractor said.
Bobby Ferguson’s company allegedly submitted doctored records that were altered to show his construction company started work on a Sterling Heights sinkhole project more than three weeks before it actually did.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Special Agent Carol Paszkiewicz testified about uncovering business records that appear to fit a pattern of Ferguson Enterprises Inc. submitting fake invoices and records to justify lucrative payments for work on city projects.
In the corruption case, former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is accused of steering work to his pal, Ferguson, after a large sewer collapsed at 15 Mile and Hayes in Sterling Heights in August 2004.
Kilpatrick also is accused of holding up a $12 million contract amendment for Grosse Pointe Farms tycoon Tony Soave’s firm until the company agreed to give Ferguson $350,000 for no-show work.
During testimony in December, defense attorney Michael Rataj showed Paszkiewicz the “daily field record” of Ferguson Enterprises during cross examination. The only date on it is Aug. 23, 2004, at the bottom of the page.
On Tuesday, Paszkiewicz said she went back and looked at other records and discovered the one she was shown was different than others she had seen from Ferguson Enterprises.
The biggest differences: The others have a sequential ticket number at the top of the page and the date line in the middle of the page was typically filled in. On the one Rataj showed her, the ticket number wasn’t there and the date line was empty, though there were marks that indicated it may have been erased.
“You are not a document expert are you?” Rataj asked the EPA agent.
“No,” Paszkiewicz said.
“And you have no knowledge how this particular document was created, do you?” Rataj asked
“No,” she said.
“And you don’t know who created it, do you?” Rataj asked.
“No,” Paszkiewicz said.
“And when it was created, do you?” Rataj asked.
“No,” the agent said.