Key federal witness 'thought world' of Kilpatrick

Kwame Kilpatrick and lawyer James C. Thomas outside federal court Thursday.

A key witness against Kwame Kilpatrick said his business fizzled after news broke about a donation to the ex-mayor’s nonprofit group.

Jon Rutherford, a former homeless shelter operator who is awaiting a federal prison sentence, told jurors about the donation in approximately 2000.

Rutherford said Metro Emergency Services’ business fizzled after reports surfaced about a donation to the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.

“After that, nobody would renew my funding,” Rutherford said. “Basically, I lost that business.”

Curtis Hertel

The 63-year-old Orchard Lake resident’s testimony marks a new chapter in the Kilpatrick corruption case as prosecutors focus on alleged extortion by the ex-mayor and others.

Rutherford told jurors he was introduced to Kilpatrick by Curtis Hertel, former speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives.

“I was very impressed with his intelligence, his ability to interact with people, his drive,” Rutherford said. “I thought the world of him.”

Today, he’s testifying against Kilpatrick in hopes of getting a shorter prison term.

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.

Despite the payments, the casino never materialized.

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