Drama spikes in Kilpatrick case as lawyer argues with witness

Bobby Ferguson and Kwame Kilpatrick outside federal court.

Kwame Kilpatrick’s lawyer got argumentative while questioning a government witness who alleged the former mayor ordered his staff to hamstring pal Bobby Ferguson’s business rival.

Attorney James C. Thomas tried to cast doubt on earlier testimony from city official Kim Harris. Harris testified his boss, the late Gerard Grant Phillips, ordered him to strip the rival firm of a key certification giving preference during bidding to Detroit-headquartered companies.

“Gerard Grant Phillips is not here today. He’s not available today,” Thomas asked Harris.

Kilpatrick lawyer James C. Thomas

Harris mumbled.

“That’s a yes?” Thomas asked.

“Hes not here to be questioned about whatever you said to him or about what he said to you,” the lawyer said.

Prosecutors objected to the questioning.

“The reason is because he is dead,” Thomas said, disregarding the objection.

“There is nobody else to verify whatever you said or he said to you,” Thomas said.

“Argumentative!” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta said.

“It’s not,” Thomas said. “I’m asking him a question.”

The Murphy Telegraph Building in Detroit

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds sustained the objection.

Thomas suggested Harris did not do a thorough investigation into whether the rival firm, DLZ, was headquartered in the Murphy Telegraph Building in Detroit and truly eligible for a certification awarding bonus points during the bidding process.

“There was no need,” said Harris, a former compliance officer with the city human rights department. “The company was certified. We had no reason to believe they were not Detroit-headquarter certified.”

Edmunds later rebuffed bids by Thomas to show jurors state business records that suggested DLZ was headquartered outside Detroit.

Thomas kept trying.

“I have ruled three or four times now,” the judge said, clearly frustrated. “I am not going to rule again.”

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