Crisis guru testifies Kilpatrick paid her in cash

Judy Smith, the crisis manager hired to help Kwame Kilpatrick weather the text-message scandal, testified today she was paid about $180,000, including money from his nonprofit group.

But Kilpatrick stiffed her for about $60,000, a debt her firm wrote off.

Prosecutors showed jurors a series of checks from the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, which was set up to benefit kids and the Detroit community. Instead, Kilpatrick treated the nonprofit group like a slush fund, prosecutors allege.

“Did you do any work for the Civic Fund?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta asked her.

“No,” Smith said.

“Was your goal to help the city of Detroit?” Bullotta asked.

“No,” she said.

Smith added some star power to an otherwise dull day in federal court. Smith, whose life and career inspired the ABC television show “Scandal,” worked in the White House and has represented a stable of high-profile clients.

A sampling, from her website:

….Monica Lewinsky, Senator Craig from Idaho, actor Wesley Snipes, NFL quarterback Michael Vick, and the family of Chandra Levy.

Christine Beatty

For Kilpatrick, Smith handled a media barrage after steamy text messages surfaced in 2008 showing Kilpatrick had an affair with his chief of staff Christine Beatty.

It all started with a phone call from Kilpatrick in 2008.

“He said that he needed some assistance with a crisis involving text messages,” Smith testified.

While Smith was paid via Civic Fund checks, Kilpatrick also paid her in cash.

Smith testified that Kilpatrick gave her $11,000 cash on one occasion.

The Civic Fund also gave $25,000 to Smith’s philanthropic group.

Smith said she didn’t solicit the donation.

Smith said she never talked to Kilpatrick about the Civic Fund and didn’t know why she was paid by the nonprofit group.

Defense lawyer James C. Thomas suggested someone else authorized payments from the Civic Fund.

“You can’t say what the decision-making process was?” Thomas asked.

“No, I can’t,” Smith said.

In one case, a Civic Fund check was signed by Beatty’s sister April Edgar and Kandia Milton.

Bullotta, the prosecutor, tried to refocus Smith’s testimony.

“Who was the client?” Bullotta asked.

“The mayor,” Smith said.

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