Felon says Kilpatrick cash came with strings

Kwame Kilpatrick

A businessmen testified he gave more than $500,000 to Kwame Kilpatrick and his father in hopes of winning support for his casino proposal along the Detroit River.

The admission from convicted felon Jon Rutherford came after almost four hours of testimony in which Rutherford matter-of-factly described giving the ex-mayor cash and paying other benefits to his relatives and related groups.

Prosecutors called the payments bribes but Rutherford, who is cooperating with prosecutors, never used the word. And Rutherford never testified there was an explicit agreement for the mayor to take money in return for supporting his casino project.

“Were you paying this for something in return?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked.

“I guess,” Rutherford said. “I wanted something in the end, yup.”

“Do you believe Mayor Kilpatrick understood why you were giving this money to him?” the prosecutor asked.

Defense lawyers objected to the question.

“Did Kwame Kilpatrick express his appreciation for your support?” Chutkow asked.

“Yes,” Rutherford said.

“Did Mayor Kilpatrick tell you he would do anything for you?” the prosecutor asked.

“No,” Rutherford said. “He liked the project. He would have backed the project on the riverfront.”

“Did you need access to the mayor?” Chutkow asked.

“For a project like that?” Rutherford said.”I couldn’t do it without him.”

Despite the payments, the casino project fizzled.

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