DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – Jurors heard opening statements Friday in the federal corruption trial of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Prosecutors detailed how co-defendant Bobby Ferguson, the ex-mayor’s close friend and city contractor, raked in millions of dollars.
They claim former water department boss Victor Mercado rigged bids for Ferguson, with help from Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard. All four are on trial.
Federal prosecutor Mark Chutkow told jurors Kilpatrick deposited large amounts of cash in his bank account and routinely paid off credit cards with cash. He accused the former mayor of rigging contracts to help Ferguson, taking kickbacks from his campaign fundraiser and using a nonprofit fund as a “personal ATM.”
One project the four allegedly profited from, according to prosecutors, was in connection with a Sterling Heights sewer collapse in 2004 that took months to repair.
Defense lawyers denied the charges. Kilpatrick attorney James Thomas told jurors there are “two sides to every story.”
The first witnesses will appear Monday.
WWJ Legal Analyst and Talk Radio 1270 host Charlie Langton said the government presented a very strong, orderly case, and they have a clear advantage.
“They have video. They have undercover video of Bernard Kilpatrick on tape. Even in this criminal case, where the defendants don’t have to testify, we are going to see a lot of the defendants,” said Langton.
Langton talked about what we should expect to here as the trial continues.
“This is a very long trial with a lot of different counts and the trick for the government is to make it easy to understand,” said Langton.”But in doing that they have video and that will make the jury really understand the ramification of what’s going — but it’s gotta be interesting for these jurors. That’s the job of the government.”
The trial is expected to last four months. How do you keep a jurors’ attention for that long.
“Now what they’ll do, I would think, would be the sexiest, the juiciest of testimony — spread it around a little bit,” said Langton. “But what they’ll do is they’ll tease a little bit — just like we do in the media, as like an upcoming — and they’ll give a little sense of what the government is gonna do.”
Defense lawyers tried unsuccessfully to have this trial moved out of Detroit, arguing that heavy media coverage of the case had tainted the jury pool. Judge Nancy Denied a motion for a change of venue on Thursday.
The Kilpatricks are accused of shaking down contractors who wanted business or favors from Detroit city hall. The government calls it the “Kilpatrick enterprise.”
All four defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges of racketeering, bribery and extortion. Kilpatrick was mayor until fall 2008 when he resigned in the unrelated text-messaging scandal.
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