Former City Councilwoman Sharon McPhail labeled the government’s star witness a liar along with another witness who allegedly delivered bra-stuffed kickbacks to Kwame Kilpatrick.
McPhail spent an hour on the witness stand as Kilpatrick’s lawyer tried to cast doubt on testimony from star witness Derrick Miller and former Kilpatrick fundraiser Emma Bell.
U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds said the defense teams are expected to rest Wednesday. Closing arguments are tentatively set for next Monday.
Live Updates EndedPlease read below for an archived view of this event.
Bobby Ferguson helped a young black contractor get started in the construction business, a witness testified Monday.
The testimony came as Ferguson’s lawyer tried to combat government witnesses who portrayed Kwame Kilpatrick’s friend as a crooked businessman who extorted businessmen.
Kilpatrick’s lawyer James C. Thomas took a break from questioning witnesses and let Ferguson lawyer Gerald Evelyn call witnesses.
Minority contractor Theo Simmons testified he met Ferguson in the early 1990s and eventually worked as a trucker and as a subcontractor on sewer jobs.
Ferguson offered to let Simmons and his brother’s company E&T Trucking move into his former office building in Detroit.
“That was a good thing,” Simmons testified.
Under cross examination, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked Simmons about his company paying Kilpatrick’s father Bernard $40,000 to get city business.
Simmons said he didn’t know about the check paid to Bernard Kilpatrick’s consulting company Maestro Associates.
“E&T is your company but you were not aware you were hiring consultants?” Chutkow asked.
“I was the partner in the field working,” Simmons said. “The paperwork, I didn’t know.”
“Were you aware of any fee disputes between Mr. Ferguson and your brother?” Chutkow asked.
“I don’t know nothing about nothing,” Simmons said.
A former Ferguson employee testified about working for Ferguson.
“You had to be accountable,” former employee Lewis McVay testified.
McVay previously worked for William Hayes and his firm Hayes Excavating, a rival of Ferguson’s.
Prosecutors showed McVay text messages between Ferguson and Kilpatrick from 2004. In one, the friends joked about Hays and discussed the prospect of taking work away from the black contractor.
“You said Hayes was a good man, a good friend. Would it upset you if the mayor and Mr. Ferguson were laughing about Mr. Hays?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked.
McVay took several dramatic pauses and stared at the courtroom ceiling while he considered a response.
“You want my personal opinion sir?” McVay asked the prosecutor.
He paused again.
“I wouldn’t like that,” McVay said.
Former Detroit Councilwoman Sharon McPhail set two conditions before agreeing to work for Kwame Kilpatrick in 2006.
One, she refused to report to the Detroit mayor’s mistress.
“I said ‘I’m not reporting to Christine,” McPhail testified.
Kilpatrick started laughing in court.
“And I wanted to do things for people who work in Detroit and to make sure they had job opportunities,” McPhail added.
McPhail eventually became Kilpatrick’s general counsel until he resigned in 2008 amid the text-message scandal.
McPhail started recounted a nasty experience she had with former Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller, the government’s star witness — but was blocked.
The News reported on the experience last week.
“I threw him out of my office,” McPhail said. “He tried to extort me and I wasn’t going to have it. It was about a vote for the casinos. He said if I didn’t vote for it, he would go after me. I put him out.”
On Monday, she shared her opinion of Miller.
“I didn’t trust him,” she testified Monday. “He didn’t tell the truth.”
Defense lawyer James C. Thomas asked about Kilpatrick’s fundraiser Emma Bell, who testified about delivering kickbacks to the mayor in a private suite on the 11th floor of City Hall.
McPhail said she saw Bell in the mayor’s office once.
“Was she a truthful person?” Thomas asked.
“No,” McPhail said.
McPhail backed up earlier defense testimony about staffers and appointees giving Kilpatrick cash gifts.
“Cabinet members, we gave $1,000 or more,” McPhail testified. “We kind of all put the money together in a big ball and gave it to him.”
“Who gathered the money?” Thomas asked.
“Christine Beatty,” McPhail said.
McPhail spent an hour on the witness stand but was not asked about calling Kilpatrick a thug or suggesting he had someone rig her electric chair massager to shock her.
Prosecutors passed on asking her any questions.
Defense lawyer James C. Thomas suggested Kwame Kilpatrick was too busy running for re-election in 2005 to head a criminal racket inside City Hall.
Thomas talked about the campaign grind with defense witness Sharon McPhail, a former city councilwoman who worked for Kilpatrick after losing the 2005 mayoral primary.
“It’s very intense,” McPhail testified while Kilpatrick leaned forward in his chair, listening intently. “You’re losing your voice, making speeches, it stretches into evenings, weekends, sometimes you hit 5 to 10 churches on a Sunday.”
Thomas also questioned McPhail about the city contract approval process.
McPhail said council members are briefed on each contract and can question various aspects of deals.
“And council can hold contracts?” Thomas asked.
“It has an absolute right to,” she said.
He showed her a $12 million contract change order for the firm Inland Waters, which allegedly was extorted by Kilpatrick. The firm was owned by Grosse Pointe Farms tycoon Tony Soave.
She didn’t recall the contract or change order.
Thomas questioned McPhail about a seven-month delay in the Inland contract and asked if that was typical.
“No,” she said, “they often take a long time.”
That testimony was aimed at countering Soave’s previous testimony.
According to earlier testimony, Kilpatrick’s office was holding up a $50 million deal with Soave’s firm Inland Waters because the contract did not involve the right minority subcontractor.
Soave testified he met with Kilpatrick in April 2002.
The meeting allegedly ended with Soave dumping his minority contractor and hiring Bobby Ferguson, the mayor’s close friend.
Defense lawyers in the City Hall corruption trial will rest as early as Wednesday, much earlier than expected, according to U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds.
Closing arguments could come Monday, according to a tentative schedule released today.
It is unclear if Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard or Bobby Ferguson will testify by Wednesday.
Former City Councilwoman Sharon McPhail was spotted inside federal court today and is expected to testify as a witness for her former boss/nemesis, ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
The News first broke the story about McPhail being subpoenaed by Kilpatrick’s defense team.
She has a tangled relationship with Kilpatrick.
She ran against Kilpatrick in 2005, lost and later became his general counsel and a vocal defender.
McPhail once called Kilpatrick a thug and suggested he had someone rig her electric chair massager to shock her.
Her selection sheds light on the type of witnesses the former mayor is counting on to avoid a 20-year prison sentence in the federal racketeering case.