Star Kilpatrick witness pays off early for feds

Derrick Miller outside federal court with lawyer Byron Pitts, right.

Derrick Miller outside federal court with lawyer Byron Pitts, right.

Derrick Miller’s value as a government witness emerged early Monday during testimony in the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial.

Miller corroborated previous witnesses about allegedly illegal campaign finance activities and revisited some of the most damaging allegations leveled by federal prosecutors.

The ex-mayor’s close friend and former aide painted Kilpatrick as a liar who used donations to the nonprofit Kilpatrick Civic Fund on personal expenses, including lavish resort vacations, golf clubs and yoga classes.

 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)

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)

Miller had power to sign Civic Fund checks and said he often signed blank checks. Some of those checks later bankrolled expensive spa trips for Kilpatrick, wife Carlita and their children.

News of the personal expenses were first aired in October, early on in the trial, but Miller’s testimony served as a refresher course for jurors.

One $8,605 Civic Fund check paid for Kilpatrick’s family to travel to the La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, Calif., in summer 2006.

A TV reporter found out about the trip and that the Civic Fund paid for the vacation.

Again, Kilpatrick huddled with his inner circle to hatch a response.

“We had to come up with some story for why this check was used for this resort and spa,” Miller said.

The plan: Kilpatrick would say the trip was to raise money for the Civic Fund, Miller said.

Kwame Kilpatrick's fundraiser, Emma Bell, leaves federal courthouse Thursday after an explosive day of testimony. (David Coates / The Detroit News)

Kwame Kilpatrick’s fundraiser, Emma Bell, seen leaving federal courthouse after an explosive day of testimony in the fall. (David Coates / The Detroit News)

There was no evidence Kilpatrick raised any money while staying at the $625-a-night resort, Miller said.

Miller also told jurors the mayor met privately with fundraiser Emma Bell in the infamous “Barber Room.”

Bell testified earlier that she delivered kickbacks to Kilpatrick inside the barber room. The kickbacks allegedly were stuffed in Bell’s bra.

The “Barber Room” was an office within Kilpatrick’s suite that featured leather furniture, a shower and a barber chair. The leather padding on the chair read “The Mayor 2002.”

Prosecutors showed jurors a photo of the barber chair Monday.

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