Felon gave cash to group run by Kilpatrick sister

Convicted felon Jon Rutherford testified that along with cash given to Kwame Kilpatrick and his father, he also donated $5,000 to a nonprofit group headed by Kilpatrick’s sister.

Rutherford testified he bought $5,000 worth of tickets to a Halloween party fundraiser in October 2002 organized by the Next Vision Foundation, an organization run by Ayanna Kilpatrick Ferguson.

Ayanna Kilpatrick Ferguson

“Why?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked.

“It was Kwame’s sister,” Rutherford said.

“Was it the family connection that caused you to” donate, the prosecutor asked.

“Absolutely,” Rutherford said.

Prosecutors allege Rutherford paid bribes to Kwame Kilpatrick and his father to win support for his casino proposal.

Prosecutors allege the $5,000 payment was prompted by a request from the mayor’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick.

But Thursday, Rutherford said the request might have come from the mayor or his sister.

Rutherford agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to a five-year felony tax charge in December 2009.

The City Hall corruption indictment alleges Rutherford paid Kilpatrick and his father Bernard Kilpatrick more than $500,000 in return for the former mayor’s support of a waterfront casino Rutherford was backing.

The 63-year-old Orchard Lake resident is scheduled to report to prison in January to serve a 21-month sentence.

But he hopes to spend less time behind bars based on his testimony in the City Hall corruption case.

“Of course, wouldn’t you?” Rutherford said. “I guess you plan for the worst and hope for the best.”

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