Kilpatrick lawyer chips away at kickback claim

Kilpatrick lawyer James C. Thomas

Kwame Kilpatrick’s lawyer tried to weaken testimony from the mayor’s former fundraiser who told jurors Thursday about paying kickbacks to the Detroit leader.

Bell earlier said Kilpatrick asked her if she would “have something for him” after he paid her a $100,000 commission for raising money for his various campaigns and charities.

Bell said she believed Kilpatrick was demanding a kickback. Bell testified she gave him about $50,000 — the first of many alleged kickbacks totaling more than $286,000.

“He didn’t say ‘I want half,'” Thomas told her. “He said ‘I’ll see you later.’ He never told you any specific amount he wanted.”

“Right, sir,” Bell said.

Kilpatrick’s lawyer is using a soft touch so far with mostly polite questions, a stark contrast from Wednesday when Thomas talked about Bell with an IRS special agent.

Today, he gently broached Bell’s slot-playing hobby and tax woes.

“You had a gambling problem, right?” Thomas asked Bell in a soft voice.

“Yes, sir,” she said.

“You were there on a pretty regular basis,” Thomas said.

For example, Bell gambled $788,950 in 2007 at Greektown Casino. She lost $56,325.

Robert Snell

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