Kilpatrick fundraiser likely to face defense grilling

Kwame Kilpatrick with defense lawyer James C. Thomas.

Fundraiser Emma Bell is expected to be the first of at least 11 felons who will testify against Kwame Kilpatrick.

She likely faces a brutal cross examination — perhaps as early as today — over her tax woes, personal life and gambling.

Bell agreed to testify against the ex-mayor, who allegedly demanded more than $286,500 in kickbacks from Bell.

She pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges in October and is awaiting sentencing.

Under a plea deal, Bell faces 18-24 months in prison, which could be cut in half if she provides substantial assistance. She is expected to testify about paying kickbacks to Kilpatrick from money contributed by campaign donors.

During opening statements, Kilpatrick lawyer James C. Thomas hinted at the expected defense grilling.

Thomas called her a gambling addict who lost $300,000 at casinos before agreeing to testify against the mayor.

Bell “was grabbing money with both hands just like Derrick Miller,” Thomas said, referring to the mayor’s former aide, who also is a key government witness.

Thomas is questioning an IRS agent about his investigation and attempts to identify cash payments from Bell to Kilpatrick.

“You made an attempt…to correlate money she said she was giving to Mr. Kilpatrick with his bank records and him depositing cash to pay for his credit cards, did you not?” Thomas asked the agent. “You were not able to make that correlation, is that correct?”

“I believe there was some correlation,” the IRS agent countered.

Thomas also reviewed a spreadsheet showing payments Bell made for her Lafayette Towers apartment. Among the recipients of cash from Bell: political consultant Adolph Mongo, according to the spreadsheet.

Political consultant Adolph Mongo.

Mongo worked for Kilpatrick but had harsh words for him two years ago, according to a Detroit News story:

“He left this city in shambles,” Mongo said of Kilpatrick. “He had the most potential of anybody I ever worked for, and he blew it. What made this town great — black political power — has been diluted, sliced up and silenced. Detroit has become the minor leagues.”

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