Tech exec gave FBI texts from Kilpatrick's infamous pager

Photo of Kwame Kilpatrick heading to court with his lawyer

Kwame Kilpatrick heads to court with his lawyer Michael Naughton, right.

The chief architect of the SkyTel pager Kwame Kilpatrick used to send raunchy and incriminating messages to his chief of staff, testified Tuesday about how the device stored messages.

Former SkyTel executive Stephen Oshinsky set the groundwork for later in the trial when prosecutors will introduce text messages sent by Kilpatrick and other co-defendants. Investigators seized a trove of text messages from Kilpatrick during a years-long probe of City Hall corruption.

Oshinsky testified he turned over two discs worth of text messages sent by Kilpatrick and others after being served with two search warrants from the FBI in 2008.

Prosecutors need to authenticate the text messages seized from Kilpatrick, Ferguson, Kilpatrick’s father Bernard and former Detroit water boss Victor Mercado.

Federal prosecutors obtained almost 370,000 text messages after serving the city’s cell service provider with two search warrants in April and November 2008, records show. The warrants sought records for pagers belonging to Kwame Kilpatrick, his mistress and chief of staff Christine Beatty and Ferguson.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy also provided text messages belonging to several current or former city officials.

The texts can be authenticated through distinctive characteristics used by Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick and Ferguson, prosecutors said.

For example, Kwame Kilpatrick frequently used the word “COOL!” when responding to texts, prosecutors said.

Bobby Ferguson

Ferguson’s texts were unique for less flattering reasons, prosecutors said.

The texts included typos and incorrect grammar, they said.

Prosecutors allege Kilpatrick ditched his SkyTel pager in early 2005 after learning SkyTel stored text messages on its servers indefinitely.

An underling gave the mayor, Beatty and Ferguson new BlackBerry devices in February 2005, prosecutors allege.

The BlackBerry bill didn’t go to City Hall. Ferguson paid for the smartphones, prosecutors alleged.

Marc Andre Cunningham

A former Kilpatrick aide, Marc Andre Cunningham, who is cooperating with prosecutors, will testify he provided the new devices to the mayor, Beatty and Ferguson.

Cunningham was Kilpatrick’s fraternity brother at Florida A&M University. He pleaded guilty to a bribery charge in November 2010 stemming from a Detroit pension fund investment and is awaiting sentencing.

He admitted to receiving $300,000 in bribes and faces up to 37 months in prison.

Text messages helped lead to Kilpatrick’s downfall.

Kilpatrick admitted lying when he testified in 2004 and 2007 in a whistleblower lawsuit brought by former Detroit police officers who said they were expected to facilitate and cover up Kilpatrick’s extramarital affairs.

A later release of text messages sent between Kilpatrick and Beatty showed both lied when they denied under oath they had a sexual relationship.

Prosecutors are armed with texts sent before the switch to BlackBerry, which they will use in the corruption trial.

Prosecutors allege Ferguson had inside information about city contracts, schemed with Kilpatrick to obtain taxpayer-funded jobs and threatened other contractors.

In May 2004, while discussing the Book Cadillac hotel project in downtown Detroit, Ferguson allegedly told Kilpatrick: “I am famous now. just need to get some money.”

“Lol!” Kilpatrick texted back. “Right. Let’s get you some.”

Ferguson’s text in response corrected Kilpatrick.

“Us,” he typed

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