Wiretaps, recordings make debut in case

Bernard Kilpatrick

The FBI tapped Bernard Kilpatrick’s cell phone in June 2007 and listened to his phone calls for almost one year, an FBI agent testified.

FBI Special Agent Robert Beeckman said the wiretap captured calls between the mayor’s father and several others, including Kwame Kilpatrick and daughter Ayanna Kilpatrick Ferguson.

Beeckman also said the bureau obtained taped phone calls Kwame Kilpatrick made while serving time in the Wayne County Jail in late 2008 and early 2009.

During one phone call, Kwame Kilpatrick and his sister planned a 90th birthday party for their grandfather, Marvel Cheeks.

“We got to do something real nice for grandaddy’s birthday?” Kwame Kilpatrick says on one phone call recorded from the jail.

“Definitely,” his sister said.

“Get a big band to play old tunes,” Kwame Kilpatrick says. “Have people get up and give him an award.”

Kilpatrick suggested having people from the community attend the party and give his grandfather gifts, including a suit from the mayor’s Southfield haberdasher and a hat from Henry the Hatter, a well-known Detroit shop.

The party was held in May 2009 at the Atheneum Suite Hotel and partially paid for with a $2,500 check from the Kilpatrick Civic Fund. Another $3,800 cashier’s check paid for the rest of the party.

The phone call was another attempt by prosecutors to convince jurors Kilpatrick misspent Civic Fund money donated by people who thought the cash would aid Detroit children and the community.

Kwame Kilpatrick’s lawyer James C. Thomas suggested the Civic Fund paid for a portion of the party because senior citizens and other community members attended the gala.

“No one from the FBI was at the party?” Thomas asked Beeckman.

“We weren’t invited,” Beeckman said.

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