Kilpatrick jury starts deliberations in corruption case

A quick verdict isn’t expected in the City Hall corruption trial of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his father, Bernard, and contractor Bobby Ferguson.

Jury deliberations started at 9 a.m. Tuesday in federal court following a five-month trial and last until 4:30 p.m. each day. Prosecutors wrapped up their case Friday and jurors briefly met but didn’t seriously begin weighing the case until Tuesday. Court was closed Monday for Presidents Day.

Shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday, the federal court reported: “Jury has left for the day.  Will resume deliberations at 9 a.m. tomorrow.”

As soon as there are developments, we’ll report them here first.

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Jeff Beasley

Jeff Beasley

The first day of jury deliberations in the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial ended today with silence from the jury room, no puffs of smoke, no nothing.

Jurors are believed to have spent about seven hours deliberating the fates of Kilpatrick, his father Bernard and contractor Bobby Ferguson.

Deliberations are expected to resume at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

While jurors were on the 8th floor deliberating, Kilpatrick’s fraternity brother appeared on the first floor.

Jeff Beasley, the city’s former treasurer and Kilpatrick’s college pal at Florida A&M University, was arraigned today on charges he pocketed bribes in exchange for approving pension fund deals.

He stood mute and was freed on $10,000 unsecured bond. A trial is set for July.

The seven-count arraignment was a bit of housekeeping for Beasley, who originally was indicted one year ago amid a widening pension fund scandal. The indictment was recently updated with additional charges and defendants, which required Beasley to be arraigned on the superseding indictment.

Beasley is accused of accepting cash, golf clubs, gambling money, tickets to Las Vegas shows, massages, limousine rides and free flights in return for approving more than $200 million in pension fund investments.

Many of those deals fizzled, costing the pension funds more than $84 million, money that could have been used to pay for benefits of thousands of retired Detroit municipal employees.

If convicted, Beasley faces up to 20 years in prison of charges that include extortion, attempted extortion and conspiracy.

Beasley is portrayed as the gatekeeper to hundreds of millions of dollars controlled by the city’s pension funds.

Kwame Kilpatrick outside federal court

Kwame Kilpatrick outside federal court

Prosecutors allege he wielded power over people and businesses seeking investments from the Police and Fire and the General Retirement pension funds because he sat on both boards and was a fundraiser for the ex-mayor’s nonprofit group, the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.

In several cases, Beasley supported multimillion-dollar loans to businesses that allegedly contributed cash to the mayor’s charity, according to the indictment.

Beasley also allegedly asked business people to provide private flights for Kilpatrick, his wife Carlita, his father and others to Bermuda, Las Vegas and Florida.

Beasley appeared in court two weeks after his co-defendant, Detroit businessman Chauncey Mayfield, pled guilty to paying the former treasurer bribes.

Mayfield, 56, was a prominent investment adviser and fiduciary for the city’s pension funds and oversaw a $200 million real-estate portfolio.

Mayfield admitted paying bribes, including private jet flights and donations to the Civic Fund, in exchange for Beasley backing pension fund business ventures.

Among the alleged bribes: Mayfield hired the married Beasley’s “paramour,” according to prosecutors.

Mayfield, who was profiled by the New York Times two years ago, faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

A third man, Atlanta businessman Roy Dixon, is charged in the pension fund case. He is accused of paying bribes to Beasley and other officials, and embezzling millions of dollars in pension fund loans.

Jurors must sort through more than two dozen charges and consider more than 80 witnesses and numerous text messages in the case that could send the trio to prison for up to 20 years.

“If deliberations go a week and there’s no movement, that’s not a surprise,” said Peter Henning, a Wayne State law professor and former federal prosecutor. “Two weeks? You start to wonder what’s going on.”

Bobby Ferguson

Bobby Ferguson

Prosecutors allege Kwame Kilpatrick and the other defendants forced contractors working for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to hire Bobby Ferguson’s companies by threatening to cut them out of multimillion-dollar projects.

According to prosecutors, the mayor’s father was a middleman and shared in the proceeds.

Former Detroit water department boss Victor Mercado, who allegedly used his power to steer work to Ferguson, pleaded guilty in November, weeks into the trial.

Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Michigan have a 98.3 percent conviction rate in criminal cases, according to the most recently available statistics.

The U.S Attorney’s Office prosecuted 892 people last year in the Eastern District of Michigan. Fifteen people were acquitted.

Seven of those acquittals came in one trial: the sedition case against the Hutaree militia. Two militia members were defended by Kwame Kilpatrick’s lawyer, James C. Thomas, and Ferguson’s lawyer, Michael Rataj.

The former mayor has repeatedly expressed optimism about the trial. On Sunday, he took to Twitter.

“Guy just asked if ‘I was mad at everybody.; No Sir! When I finally forgave myself, I knew I couldn’t harbor unforgiveness of others. #newlife,” Kilpatrick wrote on the social media site.

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