Lawyer: Kilpatrick hoarded cash, didn't pocket payoffs

Kwame Kilpatrick (Cartoon by Henry Payne)

Kwame Kilpatrick (Cartoon by Henry Payne)

The government’s theory that Kwame Kilpatrick pocketed almost $841,000 in bribes and kickbacks is flawed, the former mayor’s lawyer said Tuesday.

Defense lawyer James C. Thomas tried to explain why Kilpatrick had that much money in cash beyond his mayoral salary.

Kilpatrick and his wife received large cash gifts, which were not taxable, and hoarded money before he became mayor in 2002, Thomas told jurors.

The money wasn’t bribes and kickbacks from contractor Bobby Ferguson and others, Thomas suggested.

Sharon McPhail

Sharon McPhail

“(Prosecutors) ignored the income he and his wife were generating before 2002,” Thomas told jurors during closing arguments. “It’s a flaw.”

Thomas pointed to testimony from former Detroit Councilwoman Sharon McPhail and former Kilpatrick appointee Kizzi Montgomery. They said city employees gave Kilpatrick cash gifts twice a year, on his birthday and at Christmas.

McPhail said she gave $1,000 to Kilpatrick.

There were 100 appointees, 20 directors and 10 cabinet members — all of whom gave Kilpatrick cash twice a year, Thomas said.

“When the government…tells you he owes taxes because of cash he was depositing into his account, the government completely ignored gifts,” Thomas said. “Completely ignored gifts. Completely ignored loans. You can’t ignore that.”

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