Kilpatrick pocketed $10k before Dubai trip, witness says

Kwame Kilpatrick outside federal court Thursday.

Kwame Kilpatrick tapped a businessman and campaign donor for $10,000 in May 2002 so he could buy suits before traveling to Dubai, according to testimony Thursday.

Businessman Jon Rutherford said the request came during a fundraiser at the Detroit Athletic Club for the mayor’s mom, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick.

The fundraiser was one day before Kilpatrick traveled to Dubai to foster relations with Detroit.

“Did he ask for it or did you come up with it?” Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow asked Rutherford.

“He had the figure in mind,” Rutherford said. “He knew how much he needed.”

“So he asked for $10,000?” the prosecutor asked.

“Yes,” Rutherford said.

“What was your response?” the prosecutor said.

“He’s my guy,” Rutherford said. “I said ‘I’ll take care of you, I’ll do it.'”

Kwame and Carlita Kilpatrick check in with their three sons at the American Airlines ticket counter at Detroit Metro on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008. (Velvet S. McNeil / The Detroit News)

Rutherford said he had the cash delivered to Detroit Metropolitan Airport the next day before Kilpatrick’s flight.

The alleged payment was part of a bribery scheme to win Kilpatrick’s support for Rutherford’s casino proposal, prosecutors allege.

Rutherford reached a plea deal with prosecutors and agreed to testify against the former mayor in exchange for a lower sentence. Depending on his testimony, Rutherford could get a reduction in his 21-month prison sentence.

That cooperation was fleeting, however.

“Did you think it was proper to give money to the mayor of the city of Detroit?” Chutkow asked.

“Um, I didn’t really think it was that bad of a thing to do,” Rutherford said.

“You were looking for a casino, weren’t you?” Chutkow asked.

“No,” Rutherford said, countering a key allegation in the indictment.

Kilpatrick never repaid the $10,000, Rutherford said.

Later, Rutherford said he gave Kilpatrick about $5,000 to the mayor during a restaurant meeting at the Green Valley Ranch Resort in Las Vegas.

“Why?” the prosecutor asked.

“Because he asked for it,” Rutherford said.

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