Pistol-whipped victim of Kilpatrick pal still waiting for payout

Bobby Ferguson walks towards the federal courthouse in Detroit on September 21, 2012.

A Detroiter who won a $2.6 million jury verdict five years ago after being pistol whipped by Bobby Ferguson hasn’t pocketed a penny.

Kennedy Thomas has spent those years fighting Ferguson in court and struggling with a closed-head injury inflicted by a close friend of ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

A prosecutor questioned Ferguson’s toughness Wednesday during the City Hall corruption trial, prompting The News to revisit a notorious incident from the contractor”s past. The review found an unpaid judgment, a prolonged appeal and a disabled victim coping with fresh legal woes.

“It was a serious, serious beating,” Thomas’ lawyer Mark Granzotto said Wednesday. “Judging by his speech, he really did get a closed-head injury.”

The 43-year-old man’s wait could be over soon.

On Tuesday, the Michigan Court of Appeals scheduled oral argument in the appeal for Dec. 11 following two years of inactivity.

The court could decide Thomas gets nothing, $2.6 million or something in between.

“He is obviously anxious about it,” Granzotto said.

Kwame Kilpatrick left gestures to passers by as he and Ferguson leave federal court Aug. 8.

Testimony in the City Hall corruption case Wednesday against Ferguson and Kilpatrick touched on Ferguson’s reputation as a tough businessman.

While questioning a Detroit businessman allegedly extorted by Ferguson, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked if Ferguson could be bullied.

Businessman Tom Hardiman appeared stunned by the question.

“Do I think Bobby Ferguson can be bullied?” Hardiman said. “I can’t picture Mr. Ferguson being bullied.”

Thomas’ lawsuit painted Ferguson as a jealous thug.

Thomas was a laborer for Ferguson’s demolition company who described a brutal meeting at his boss’ office in October 2004.

According to court docs:

“The plaintiff testified Mr. Ferguson asked him why he called his wife at 1:00 a.m. in the morning. Mr. Thomas denied he called the Fergusons at home. Mr. Ferguson then pulled out a gun and after more questioning, started hitting the plaintiff in the head with (a) gun, threatening to kill him. After escaping, Mr. Thomas immediately sought medical attention and reported the incident to the police.

As a result of the assault, plaintiff has a permanent disability.”

“I don’t think he’s worked since,” Granzotto said.

Thomas testified he suffers from seizures and dizziness and must walk with a cane as a result of the assault.

Ferguson avoided a possible 12-year prison sentence in August 2005 when he pleaded guilty to hitting Thomas.

The plea deal involved Ferguson spending 10 months in the county jail and five years of probation.

Two years after the guilty plea, Thomas won a $2.6 million jury verdict.

Ferguson appealed.

An FBI agent walks back into the Ferguson Enterprises Inc. yard as construction equipment is loaded onto tow trucks during a raid Nov.16, 2011 in Detroit.

A Wayne County judge later reduced the amount of the judgment against Ferguson and his company to just over $860,000.

But the judge ordered Ferguson to post a $1 million bond to cover 125 percent of the judgment.

Thomas appealed the reduction and is hoping the court restores part of the original $2.6 million judgment.

If Thomas wins and is awarded more than $1 million, he could have difficulty collecting.

That’s because Ferguson’s company is broke, according to court records.

The FBI seized about $4 million and more than a dozen pieces of construction equipment during a series of raids tied to the City Hall corruption and bid-rigging cases.

Federal prosecutors say Ferguson’s house in Rosedale Park is subject to criminal forfeiture, if the contractor is convicted.

“We would envision having difficulty collecting,” Granzotto said. “I don’t think we could get any money out of Ferguson.”

Ferguson attorney Avery Williams declined comment Wednesday.

The company’s finances were in stark contrast to a few years ago, when Kilpatrick was mayor.

A 2008 Detroit News investigation showed Ferguson and his companies had received at least $170 million in city contracts — $109 million from the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department alone — since 2002.

Thomas, meanwhile, ran into legal trouble this summer.

He was sentenced to two years’ probation in June following an arrest, according to state prison records.

The charge: brandishing a firearm in public .

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