Day 68: Kilpatrick avoids witness stand before defense rests

Jurors heard from the final defense witnesses today in the five-month-old Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial.

Kilpatrick, his father Bernard and Bobby Ferguson declined to testify and their defense teams rested, setting the stage for closing arguments Monday.

Kilpatrick and contractor Bobby Ferguson called 11 witnesses during a defense phase that lasted four days. The ex-mayor’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick, did not call anyone.

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Kwame Kilpatrick was mum leaving federal court Wednesday after declining to testify during the City Hall corruption trial.

After his defense lawyers rested their case, he tweeted to a supporter:

 

The alleged head of the so-called “Kilpatrick Enterprise” also “borrowed” a Detroit News photo in a separate tweet:

 

Bernard Kilpatrick

Bernard Kilpatrick

The question turned Bernard Kilpatrick sour.

“Why didn’t you testify?” a reporter asked Kilpatrick outside federal court Wednesday after his defense team rested without calling any witnesses.

The political “maestro” scowled.

“Did you hear any evidence?” he said after nearly five months of testimony from contractors and businessmen, including some who said they felt forced to hire Kwame Kilpatrick’s dad to win city deals.

Kwame Kilpatrick and Bobby Ferguson

Kwame Kilpatrick and Bobby Ferguson

Prosecutors also showed jurors secretly recorded FBI video of Bernard Kilpatrick pocketing a $2,500 alleged payoff.

Kilpatrick wasn’t alone in skipping the witness stand. His son and contractor Bobby Ferguson declined to testify.

Outside court, Bernard Kilpatrick expressed relief when asked about his confidence level while facing charges that could send him to prison for 20 years.

Bernard Kilpatrick said he felt confident.

“A whole lot better than I did on Day 1,” he told reporters. “I’m glad it’s here to tell you the truth.”

Michael Rataj

Michael Rataj

Then, he climbed into a red Ford Mustang and drove away from court.

Ferguson’s lawyer also expressed confidence when asked about his client’s brief defense.

“We’re confident we’ve done the job we were asked to do by our clients,” Michael Rataj said. “Now, it’s in the hands of the jury and God.”

The defense phase was spread over four days and featured testimony from a handful of witnesses. But defense lawyers spent considerable time cross-examining government witnesses since the trial started in September.

“I’ve been telling you all along that the case is in the cross examination,” Rataj told reporters outside the Penobscot Building. “Whether the witnesses held up, the jury will be the ultimate arbiter.”

Kwame Kilpatrick and Bobby Ferguson.

Kwame Kilpatrick and Bobby Ferguson.

Defense lawyers in the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial rested Wednesday without calling the former Detroit mayor, his father or contractor Bobby Ferguson to the witness stand.

Kilpatrick called a handful of witnesses, contractor Bobby Ferguson a few, Bernard Kilpatrick none. But defense lawyers spent considerable time cross-examining almost 80 government witnesses during the trial, which started in September.

Jurors, who could send the men to prison for up to 20 years, could start deliberating the fate of the three man as early as Tuesday.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds

Closing arguments are set for Monday followed by jury deliberations.

Kilpatrick, dressed in a purple sweater and glasses, stood with his arms crossed against his chest and was asked by U.S.  District Judge Nancy Edmunds about whether he would testify.

“I am choosing not to,” Kilpatrick said.

He said he was aware of the consequences, risks and benefits of not testifying during the corruption trial.

Ferguson and Bernard Kilpatrick also told the judge he would not testify.

“Ladies and gentleman, all the testimony and exhibits have been submitted in this case,” Edmunds told jurors. “It’s been going on for a long time, you’ve been taking a lot of notes and been conscientious…”

The jury will be given instructions Monday before the start of closing arguments, the judge said.

Legal experts did not expect the defendants to testify.

Christine Beatty

Christine Beatty

“There’s too much danger,” said Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor and Wayne State law professor.

The former mayor would have had to answer to his own criminal record and history of lying on the witness stand about his sexual relationship with former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty during a whistle-blower lawsuit.

“I can’t see him testifying,” Henning told The News last month. “The first questions will be: ‘How often do you lie? All of the time or some of the time?'”

Ferguson would have faced questions about his criminal record and pistol-whipping a former employee, and Bernard Kilpatrick would have been grilled about being caught on an FBI surveillance tape pocketing cash from a contractor, Henning said.

Prosecutors rested their City Hall corruption case against the three men Thursday in one of the largest public corruption cases in the last 30 years.

The corruption trial has been filled with testimony about Kilpatrick allegedly running a criminal racket inside City Hall, steering taxpayer-funded work to his pal Ferguson, pocketing payoffs and extorting businessmen.

Defense lawyers countered that Kilpatrick merely received cash gifts from friends and associates and did not extort anyone, cheat on his taxes or file phony returns.

Monica Conyers.

Monica Conyers.

The trial followed a years-long probe by the FBI, Internal Revenue Service and Environmental Protection Agency.

During the probe, prosecutors have secured two dozen convictions against businessmen and city officials, including former City Councilwoman Monica Conyers.

The charges outlined in a 100-page indictment portray Kilpatrick’s public career as a 10-year criminal racket involving bribery, extortion, fraud and tax evasion.

The crimes were allegedly aided by insiders, including Kilpatrick childhood friend turned government witness Derrick Miller.

Bernard Kilpatrick

Bernard Kilpatrick

Jurors have heard a dark, behind-the-scenes narrative of Kilpatrick’s epic rise from the state Capitol in Lansing and crash four years ago amid a scandal involving sex, lies and text messages.

Kilpatrick is accused of heading a criminal enterprise involving Ferguson that robbed taxpayers of millions of dollars.

Prosecutors allege Kilpatrick and the other defendants forced contractors working for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to hire Ferguson’s companies by threatening to cut them out of multimillion-dollar projects. According to prosecutors, the mayor’s father played a role as middleman and shared in the proceeds.

The FBI has raided Ferguson Enterprises Inc. several times and seized multiple pieces of equipment.

The FBI has raided Ferguson Enterprises Inc. several times and seized multiple pieces of equipment.

Bobby Ferguson spent almost $2.3 million buying and leasing heavy equipment from a Shelby Township business and convinced an executive to loan machinery used to clean up Detroit, according to testimony Wednesday.

Michigan CAT executive Robert Schneider testified for Ferguson about loaning equipment to the close pal of Kwame Kilpatrick for the Motor City Makeover.

“He asked to help clean up the city and, obviously, it was a worthy cause,” Schneider testified. “The city of Detroit is a customer of Michigan CAT, so we thought it would be a good thing to do.”

Bobby Ferguson

Bobby Ferguson

According to campaign finance records, a Michigan CAT executive with the same name donated $250 to the campaign of Kilpatrick’s mom, former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick in 2004.

Ferguson’s defense team is trying to fight allegations he is a violent crook who extorted businessmen and gave some of the money to Kilpatrick.

A second Ferguson defense witness, insurance agent Steve Zervos, testified about providing coverage to Ferguson’s company during Kilpatrick’s tenure.

The testimony suggested what might have happened to some of the nearly $125 million in city revenue Ferguson received from 2002 to 2008.

One of the contractor’s companies, Ferguson Enterprises Inc., spent almost $3.7 million on insurance premiums during Kilpatrick’s tenure.

A second Ferguson firm, Xcel Construction, spent more than $300,000 on insurance and bonds.

Schneider, meanwhile, testified about Ferguson buying and leasing equipment over the years. In all, Ferguson spent $2,294,684.

The FBI has seized a lot of that equipment — and about $4 million cash — during a years-long probe of Ferguson, alleged bid-rigging and City Hall corruption.

Here’s a list of Ferguson’s equipment seized by the feds:

Seizure Warrant 330BL Excavator, Serial Number 6DR03990

Seizure Warrant 345 BL Excavator, Serial Number 4SS01551

Ferguson Enterprises Inc. on Wyoming in Detroit.

Ferguson Enterprises Inc. on Wyoming in Detroit.

Seizure Warrant Allied Hydraulic Hammer, Model 797B (330), Serial Number 01818

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar 252 Skid Steer Loader, Model 252BC2SP, Serial Number SCP03254

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar 302.5 Mini Excavator, Id 2584-014, Model 302.5, Serial Number 4AZ02713

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar 314 Excavator, Model 314CLCRHQ, Serial Number PCA01039

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar 430 Backhoe Loader, ID 05-209, Model 430DC4XP, Serial Number BNK06632

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar Backhoe Loader ID 02-083, Model 420DC4XE, Serial Number FDP05060

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar IT30 IT Wheel Loader, Model 930GIT, Serial Number TWR02784

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar IT30 IT Wheel Loader, Model 930GIT, Serial Number TWR02205

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar Inc Skid Steer Loader, Id 2115-22, Model 226, Serial Number 5FZ00627

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar Inc Skid Steer Loader, Model 216C, Serial Number 4NZ04400

Federal agents took 14 or so banker-sized boxes filled with items from Ferguson Enterprises in Thursday's raid. John T. Greilick / The Detroit News

Federal agents took 14 or so banker-sized boxes filled with items from Ferguson Enterprises in Thursday’s raid. John T. Greilick / The Detroit News

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar Inc Track Excavator, Model 312CLC, Serial Number CBA00038

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar Inc Track Excavator, Model 320CLH, Serial Number PAB03080

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar Inc Track Excavator, Model 330CLCQG, Serial Number DKY00724

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar Inc, Articulated Truck, Model D350EII, Serial Number 2XW00162

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar Inc. Backhoe Loader, Model 420DC4XP, Serial Number FDP01987

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar Inc. Large IT’S (IT38-IT62), Model IT38GII, Serial Number CSX00680

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar Inc. Medium TTT, Model D5MLGP, Serial Number, 3CR01244

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar Inc. Skid Steer Loader, Model 216, Serial Number 4NZ02280

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar Inc. Skid Steer Loader, Model 226, Serial Number 5FZ01246

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar Inc. Truck Excavator, Model 313BSR, Serial Number 9PR00381

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar Inc., Articulated Truck, Model D350EII, Serial Number 2XW00157

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar Track Excavator Model 321CLCR, Serial Number MCF00496

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar, Inc. Skid Steer Loader, Id 03-404, Model 226, Serial Number 5FZ09844

Seizure Warrant Caterpillar, Inc. Skid Steer Loader, Id 03-516, Model 216C, Serial Number 4NZ04971

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds braced jurors Wednesday for the end of testimony in the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial.

“Well, this is five months to the day after the first potential jurors stepped into the courtroom,” Edmunds told jurors. “Here we are and I believe this is, in fact, the last day of testimony in the case.”

The judge disclosed Kilpatrick’s tax expert is sick and won’t return to be cross-examined by federal prosecutors. Last week, tax expert Gary Leeman laughed and said “not even close,” when asked about whether yoga lessons were an allowable expense for the ex-mayor’s nonprofit group.

wame Kilpatrick and his wife, Carlita, share a laugh before the former Detroit mayor's sentencing hearing begins on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008. Kilpatrick was sentenced to serve the full 120 days in jail as stipulated by his plea agreement by Wayne County Circuit Judge David Groner in the basement courtroom at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit.

Kwame Kilpatrick and his wife, Carlita, share a laugh before the former Detroit mayor’s sentencing hearing begins on Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008. Kilpatrick was sentenced to serve the full 120 days in jail as stipulated by his plea agreement by Wayne County Circuit Judge David Groner in the basement courtroom at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit.

Kwame Kilpatrick borrowed money from a relative to pay $500 restitution to the city last month, according to state prison officials.

Kilpatrick disclosed the arrangement after complaining to his parole agent about being broke, according to emails obtained through Freedom of Information Act and interviews with a prison official.

The emails, which you can read here, reveal Kilpatrick’s demeanor amid a state parole violation probe and show him angling for a break to travel home and see his family despite being placed on home confinement in Detroit.

The emails between Detroit’s former mayor and parole agent Charles Wright — dubbed C-Wright! by Kilpatrick — were exchanged last month amid a state probe into his finances, which concluded he was hiding cash gifts given by friends and a Chicago pastor.

Kilpatrick owes creditors $1.8 million and hasn’t been able to afford restitution payments on his own two months in a row. The likelihood of repayment — Kilpatrick owes the city $854,563 — could plummet if he is convicted of corruption charges that could send him to prison for 20 years.

Kilpatrick paid restitution in December after receiving $2,000 from Chicago Pastor Corey Brooks. The undisclosed gift, uncovered by Fox 2 News (WJBK-TV), led to parole violation charges and a weekend jail stint.

Kwame Kilpatrick tells parole agent he is broke.

Kwame Kilpatrick tells parole agent he is broke.

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