DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – A witness says he delivered $90,000 in cash to Kwame Kilpatrick in 2008 while the former Detroit mayor’s family was settling in Texas after his resignation from office.
Mahlon Clift says the money came from Bobby Ferguson, the owner of a construction company. Ferguson, Kilpatrick and two others — Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard, and the city’s former water boss Victor Mercado — are on trial on corruption charges in Detroit federal court.
Clift, who worked for a jeweler who serviced high-end clients, testified Tuesday that he’s known Kilpatrick since they attended Florida A&M University, saying “We’re close friends.” Kilpatrick, who served as a groomsman in Clift’s wedding, allegedly introduced Clift to Ferguson at a Detroit Pistons game long before Kilpatrick became mayor.
Clift says he came to Detroit in 2008 when Kilpatrick was engulfed in the text-messaging scandal, and that’s when Ferguson gave him $90,000 in a hotel room — in $10,000 stacks with hundreds and fifties about an inch thick.
Clift said he flew back to Chicago with the stacks of money concealed in his pants pockets and then hid the cash in a vacuum cleaner. He says he delivered $50,000 to Kilpatrick in Dallas that September.
Clift says he gave the remaining $40,000 to Kilpatrick at an apartment building in Detroit the next month, just days before the former mayor began a jail sentence for lying in a civil trial.
Under cross-examination by Mike Rataj, one of Ferguson’s lawyers, Clift claimed Ferguson told him “I have something for Black,” when he gave him the cash — “Black” being Kilpatrick’s nickname — but never gave him any instructions on what to do with the $90,000, except to hold it. Clift said he ended up giving the money to Kilpatrick because they were pals and he was a friend in need.
Clift said he was “uncomfortable” about testifying in court Tuesday and before the grand jury in 2010 but did so because the government offered him an immunity agreement in return for his testimony.
Meantime, a Detroit Police Officer also took the stand Tuesday, telling jurors he was threatened by Ferguson and two members of Kilpatrick’s security team into dropping misdemeanor trash violations in 2002 against Ferguson.
Officer Michael Fountain says he was confronted in the courthouse by the three. He says Ferguson told him, “Your family wouldn’t like this… It would be in the best interest for you to cancel the tickets.”
Fountain testified Tuesday that he canceled the tickets and told the judge that he had made mistakes about the case. He said he didn’t tell the judge the real reason he canceled the tickets because the case “was bigger than me and this wasn’t really worth it.”
Ferguson had been ticketed for high weeds, broken-down vehicles and debris that attracted rats.
The Kilpatricks are accused of shaking down contractors who wanted business or favors from Detroit city hall. The government alleges that Kilpatrick repeatedly helped Ferguson get city business and that they shared the spoils. 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. He subsequently served 14 months in prison for violating probation in that case.
The trial is expected to last four months, stretching into 2013.
Stay with WWJ Newsradio 950 and CBSDetroit.com for continuing coverage.
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