Kwame Kilpatrick’s nonprofit group spent money legitimately and wasn’t the ex-mayor’s personal piggy bank, according to testimony Friday.
The former mayor’s defense team Friday attacked slush fund allegations and financial records indicating Kilpatrick had more than $500,000 in his bank accounts beyond his mayoral salary.
Kilpatrick’s defense team tried to show a long pattern of staffers, friends and others giving cash gifts to the Detroit mayor. Prosecutors say the money was kickbacks and bribes from city contractors.
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Kwame Kilpatrick’s staff frequently donated cash to the Detroit mayor on his birthday and at Christmas, a former aide testified.
Kizzi Montgomery testified as defense lawyers tried to explain why Kilpatrick had more than $500,000 in his bank account beyond his salary.
Prosecutors contend the money was bribes and kickbacks from contractors.
Montgomery said she gave $100 to the mayor once, though other gifts were around $25.
Directors were asked to give $500 while cabinet-level appointees were expected to give $1,000 to Kilpatrick.
“Did you think the donations were required?” defense lawyer James C. Thomas asked.
“It was expected,” Montgomery said.
Other times staffers raised money for a $22,000 Rolex watch and to send Kilpatrick on a golf vacation, she said.
Montgomery said some staffers complained about having to cough up cash for Kilpatrick.
“How much did you make when you started off?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked during cross examination.
“About $32,000,” she said.
She remembered Kilpatrick giving her a gift — one time.
“Um, like a $50 Target card,” she said.
“Did you ever receive a Rolex watch?” the prosecutor asked.
“No,” she said.
Montgomery worked in community relations for Kilpatrick and was part of his advance team, arriving before the mayor at community events.
Montgomery currently works for Mayor Dave Bing as the city’s director of governmental affairs.
She attended Kilpatrick’s birthday party in 2006 at the Atheneum Suite Hotel.
Hotel and casino magnate Don Barden gave a large gift and urged others to do the same, she testified.
Kwame Kilpatrick’s defense lawyers called a Detroit volunteer to the witness stand Friday whose football team and cheerleaders received at least $9,800 from the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.
William Tandy runs Wayne State University’s Outward Bound program and is head coach/athletic director of Westside Clubs, a youth football team in Detroit. Kilpatrick’s kids played on the team.
Defense lawyers used Tandy to show jurors the Kilpatrick Civic Fund fulfilled its mission by spending money appropriately and benefiting the community. Prosecutors, however, say the nonprofit group was Kilpatrick’s personal piggy bank and spent almost $153,000 on improper benefits for the ex-mayor, his family and mistress.
The Westside Cubs is a successful team that helps impoverished Detroit children, Tandy said.
“This is one thing that kids can look forward to getting involved in,” Tandy said.
The Civic Fund is a major part of the corruption case against Kilpatrick. Prosecutors allege Kilpatrick committed mail and wire fraud by sending payments to Texas and other states to cover personal expenses like resort trips and summer camp for his kids.
Kilpatrick lawyer Michael Naughton walked Tandy through a series of checks issued from the Civic Fund to the Westside Cubs between 2004 and 2007.
Several checks were signed by Kilpatrick’s former mistress, Christine Beatty.
Tandy said the Civic Fund also gave $1,000 apiece to 20 different teams in 2007.
Tandy was a two-for-one defense witness.
He testified he attended a 2006 birthday party for Kilpatrick at the Atheneum Suite Hotel.
Defense lawyers say Kilpatrick received large cash gifts at the party, and others. The gifts explain why Kilpatrick had more than $500,000 in unexplained cash in his bank accounts above and beyond his mayoral salary.
At the 2006 party, Tandy said he gave Kilpatrick a cash gift.
Tandy couldn’t afford an expensive gift but “everyone was giving hundreds.”
“I had to eat Ramen noodles for the rest of the week,” Tandy said, triggering laughter from the defense table.
The federal judge overseeing Kwame Kilpatrick’s corruption trial repeatedly blocked the ex-mayor’s lawyer from asking leading questions.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds sustained objections from prosecutors while Thomas questioned the ex-mayor’s pal Erik Rayford about expenses approved by the Kilpatrick Civic Fund nonprofit group.
Edmunds blocked defense lawyer James C. Thomas from asking leading questions.
“I should be able to,” Thomas quipped.
“The rules say you cannot and I say you cannot,” the judge said.
Kwame Kilpatrick’s high school pal who sat on the ex-mayor’s nonprofit group board was not aware that tax rules prohibited spending money benefiting an individual person.
Under cross examination, Erik Rayford said he did not approve the Kilpatrick Civic Fund spending money to buy Kwame Kilpatrick a Cadillac DeVille in 2000 or to send the ex-mayor’s family to the Great Wolf Lodge water park.
“I did not personally approve any expenses,” Rayford said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta ran through a series of allegedly illegal expenses, including yoga lessons.
“Were you aware of or approve Mayor Kilpatrick paying for his kids, $4,500, to go to summer camp?” Bullotta asked.
“No,” Rayford said.
Rayford also did not approve spending money to throw a birthday party for Kilpatrick’s grandfather, Marvel Cheeks.
The party was held in May 2009 at the Atheneum Suite Hotel and partially paid for with a $2,500 check from the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.
Rayford was questioned about earlier testimony Friday that the Civic Fund’s lawyer William Phillips was present during a 2008 meeting when the board approved spending money relocating Kilpatrick’s family from the Manoogian Mansion.
Bullotta tried to impeach Kilpatrick’s pal by showing Rayford his testimony in front of a federal grand jury in 2010. Rayford contradicted himself during the grand jury testimony.
“Back in 2010, you didn’t know whether Mr. Phillips was there, isn’t that true?” Bullotta asked.
“It is true that I made those statements,” Rayford testified Friday. “It is also true that I was being truthful then and at this time about what I can recall.”
“You don’t want to see anything happen to your friend, do you?” Bullotta said.
“No,” Rayford said.
Longtime Kwame Kilpatick pal Erik Rayford, who is testifying for the ex-mayor, could face questions from prosecutors about a city deal revealed in text messages.
Rayford’s name surfaced in text messages obtained by federal prosecutors from April 2003.
Kilpatrick and his ex-mistress Christine Beatty exchanged texts in April 2003 about a deal to build a new police headquarters.
In one text, Kilpatrick said he picked Rayford and another man to bid on a piece of the contract.
Beatty was surprised another Kilpatrick pal, contractor and co-defendant Bobby Ferguson, wasn’t up for the job.
“Bobby wanted to strategically lose a major bid,” Kilpatrick wrote in the April 16, 2003, text message. “He will be on this one at bid time.”
Plans for a new police headquarters never materialized during Kilpatrick’s tenure. The city currently is renovating the former MGM Grand Casino, which will become the new police headquarters.
A longtime pal of Kwame Kilpatrick who sat on the ex-mayor’s nonprofit group testified the group spent money legitimately.
Erik Rayford, a classmate of Kilpatrick’s at Cass Tech,said the Civic Fund benefited the community and didn’t do anything illegal or unethical that would jeopardize his job as a bank examiner.
“I know there are rules that need to be followed and it gave me comfort that we were following those rules and making sure anything we did didn’t impact my job and career,” Rayford testified.
Prosecutors, however, say Kilpatrick tapped the nonprofit group to pay for expensive resort trips for his family and mistress, golf clubs, yoga lessons, spy gear and other items.
Rayford attended Kilpatrick’s wedding in 1995 to Carlita Kilpatrick in the Bahamas.
Jurors were shown the wedding invitation, which read “monetary gifts preferred.”
Kilpatrick’s lawyers are trying to show that Kilpatrick was given large cash gifts and that the money explained why the ex-mayor had more than $500,000 in mysterious cash in his bank accounts.
Rayford was asked the amount of his wedding gift to Kilpatrick.
“I’m sure I gave something,” he said. “I’m sure it was generous.”
There were a number of parties for Kilpatrick over the years during which people gave the ex-mayor cash gifts.
Rayford attended a birthday party for Kilpatrick in 2006 and was asked about the music.
“A lot of jazz,” Rayford said. “He was called the ‘Hip Hop Mayor’ but they didn’t plan any hip hop. I was disappointed.”
Rayford made news recently.
Rayford gave Kilpatrick $1,799, which Kilpatrick hid from parole officials. The money could have been used to pay restitution Kilpatrick owes the city of Detroit.
Kilpatick was ordered to spend a weekend in jail last month and has been barred from traveling home to Texas after failing to disclose the cash gifts.
Rayford said Kilpatrick stepped away from any official role with the Kilpatrick Civic Fund in approximately 2001.
Kilpatrick’s lawyer is trying to shift blame for Civic Fund money benefiting the former mayor. James C. Thomas has repeatedly asked whether the Civic Fund’s lawyer William Phillips played a role in approving expenses, including money spent paying to move the Kilpatrick family after he resigned in 2008.
Rayford testified about a meeting in 2008 after Kilpatrick resigned as mayor amid the text-message scandal.
Kilpatrick’s sister Ayanna Kilpatrick Ferguson urged the board to give the ex-mayor’s family money, Rayford testified.
The Civic Fund paid to move the family out of the Manoogian Mansion and to rent a luxury condo in the Park Shelton building in Detroit, among other things.
“We approved some funds to go toward that,” Rayford said.
The Civic Fund’s lawyer did not object to the expenses, Rayford said.
“That’s one thing that made me think there was nothing wrong,” Rayford said. “It felt like the right thing to do. Most of the (Civic Fund) money came from (Kilpatrick’s) energies and contacts and support of the community.”
Prosecutors say the expenses were wrong and defrauded donors.
The owner of the Majestic Theater testified for Kwame Kilpatrick about a 30th birthday party he hosted in June 2000 that included a gift basket for envelopes and, presumably, cash.
Joe Zainea testified about helping plan the party, which defense lawyers have suggested provided Kilpatrick with cash gifts that might explain why the ex-mayor had more than $500,000 in unexplained money in his bank accounts.
Prosecutors allege the money was bribes and kickbacks from city contractors.
“The highlight of it was I got to be a babysitter for two young boys Mr. Kilpatrick had,” Zainea testified.
The party cost $5,200, which was paid via a check from the mayor’s mom, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick.
Kwame Kilpatrick’s defense team plans to call the former mayor’s childhood friend to show the Kilpatrick Civic Fund spent most of its money on legitimate expenses.
Erik Rayford, who recently gave Kilpatrick cash that the ex-mayor failed to disclose to his parole agent, was revealed as a defense witness by Kilpatrick’s defense lawyer, James C. Thomas. Prosecutors don’t want to let him testify, but a federal judge Friday agreed to let him take the witness stand.
Rayford sat on the board of the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, the ex-mayor’s nonprofit group, which prosecutors say was treated like Kilpatrick’s personal piggy bank.
The Civic Fund raised $1.7 million from donors between 2002 and 2007 and all but .87 percent of that money went toward legitimate expenses, Thomas said.
“Our assertion is that those expenditures are defensible, for the most part, and that there is no criminal intent as it relates to other (expenses),” Thomas said.
“If eight percent was used for improper purposes, then that’s a salient fact and it’s not a defense that 92 percent of expenditures were proper,” the judge said.
The legal wrangling delayed the start of testimony Friday in federal court.
Kilpatrick’s lawyer also plans to call William Tandy to talk about allegedly proper expenses made by the Civic Fund. Tandy runs Wayne State University’s Upward Bound program.
Kwame Kilpatrick and his co-defendants plan to wrap their defense by next Friday, a source told The News today.
That means a shorter defense phase than originally expected and could be a sign Kilpatrick, his father and contractor Bobby Ferguson won’t testify in the City Hall corruption case.
Kilpatrick launched his defense Thursday, and immediately ran into trouble.
The ex-Detroit mayor, meanwhile, remains confused about why his parole agent punished him for hiding cash gifts from pals and cronies.
@rebekah_112 No Rebecca. I’m still being punished for something. Hasn’t been defined what that is at this point.
— KwameKilpatrick (@KwameAndFamily) February 1, 2013