Vegas junket fizzles after Detroit News probe

Convicted felon Jon Rutherford testified he gave tickets to Kwame Kilpatrick to a heavyweight boxing match between Lennox Lewis and Hasim Rahman days after the young politician’s mayoral victory in 2001.

The testimony backs up the government’s allegation that Rutherford spent $2,400 on tickets for Kilpatrick and his father for tickets to the fight at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.

The tickets were part of a bribery scheme to win Kilpatrick’s support for Rutherford’s casino proposal, prosecutors allege.

The tickets were $1,200 apiece. He also bought a ticket for Curtis Hertel, former speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, Rutherford testified.

Rutherford said he gave the tickets to Bernard Kilpatrick inside a casino bar.

The parties’ fight plans fizzled, Rutherford said.

Darci McConnell, at the time a Detroit News reporter, stuck a tape recorder in front of Kwame Kilpatrick and asked if Rutherford paid for the Las Vegas trip, Rutherford said.

She also left several messages on Rutherford’s voicemail and eventually woke up the businessman’s wife.

After the phone calls, the traveling party freaked out, Rutherford said.

“Curtis Hertel got so upset he fell over his chair,” Rutherford testified. “Everyone scattered. Everyone left.”

“Why did they all scatter,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked.

“I didn’t,” Rutherford. “I went to the fight.”

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