Ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is charged with fraud, bribery, tax crimes and racketeering conspiracy. His father, Bernard Kilpatrick and Detroit contractor Bobby Ferguson are also on trial in Detroit federal court.
Trial Update By Vickie Thomas
Dec. 17 – Dec. 21, 2012
Larry Alebiosu of Fashion International in Southfield corroborated the testimony of his friend and city contractor Johnson Akinwusi of JOA Construction. Akinwusi wrapped up his testimony on Monday saying he paid nearly $5,000 for suits the incoming mayor Kwame Kilpatrick had in layaway. It was at Alebiosu’s suggestion that Akinwusi pay for the suits in an effort to get contracts with the city. Under cross-examination by Kilpatrick’s attorney Jim Thomas, Alebiosu admitted he wanted to outfit the mayor because it would help his custom clothing business.
Next up was LaJuan Wilks, a construction project manager for the city of Detroit.She testified that she was surprised that JOA and Xcel construction companies were awarded a multi-million dollar contract by the Detroit Building Authority Board to overhaul Heilmann Recreation Center. It was a joint venture by JOA which was owned by Akinwusi and Xcel, owned by Bobby Ferguson.
Wilks testified that after review by the selection committee it was between Skanska and Spencer Daily. The committee decided to go recommend Skanska. She also testified that she got into a shouting match with Bobby Ferguson and she quoted him as saying, “The only reason you have this job is because you’re black.” Because Ferguson was friends with Kilpatrick and because her boss who was present but didn’t intervene in the argument, Wilks testified that she felt her job was in jeopardy for suggesting that Ferguson was double billing on the Heilmann Recreation Center project.
Tyrone Clifton, a project manager with Detroit’s Building Authority who oversaw the Heilmann project, under cross-examination admitted that he thought Wilks’ reaction was “over the top.”
FBI Agent Robert Beckman took the witness stand and used text messages to show that Bobby Ferguson thanked Christine Beatty for helping to steer the Heilmann project his way. Beatty headed up the Building Authority Board which approved the deal.
Beckman also testified about text messages that show Ferguson paid over $3,000 for custom suits to give to one of the top bosses at the recreation department allegedly to pay for his support of Ferguson getting piece of the Heilmann and Patton Park contracts.
Next up, it was Sean Werdlow, a current investment banker who served as Kilpatrick’s Chief Financial Officer. He served on the Detroit Building Authority Board. Werdlow testified about the Heilmann project, saying the board came to rely on the evaluation committee’s recommendations.
The June 19, 2003 meeting minutes show that Werdlow requested the bid sheets for the project but Christine Beatty called for the vote. He didn’t know the rankings of the companies or the number of companies that submitted bids.
A document on the evidence screen says the evaluation committee recommended JOA/Xcel. Werdlow said, “This would be a huge discrepancy.” He never received the bid proposals reviewed by the evaluation committee which put Skanska at number one and JOA/Excel fourth out of the five bid proposals.
Bernard Parker, III, President of BP3 & Associates spent two days on the witness stand. He is also the son of Wayne County Commissioner Bernard Parker.
In 1995 he worked with the city’s law dept. Then he went to the Human Rights Dept in 1998. He worked with certifications for Detroit based and Detroit Headquartered businesses. From 2002-2004 , he worked for Walbridge Aldinger and returned from 2006-2007. Then he worked for Xcel and Ferguson Enterprises from 2007 to August 2009.
He also worked in business development for a company called Insituform and Parker about a meeting with his bosses and Bobby Ferguson regarding an amendment to an existing contract that Parker believed at the time was on the mayor’s desk. Parker said Ferguson wanted more money out of the deal and said the amendment wouldn’t move unless they reached a deal. Parker testified when Ferguson left the room, one of the company executives called it blackmail and extortion. While Parker appeared to be a solid witness for the government, he may have lost points on cross-examination when he had to admit he lied to his own bosses in an effort to get financial contributions for Kilpatrick.
Mark Andre Cunningham closed out the week with some pretty strange testimony. He had a serious case of the nervous giggles and at times had jurors laughing. At one point he even apologized for laughing. Cunningham was a long time friend of Detroit’s ex-mayor, fraternity brother, college buddy and Kilpatrick’s executive assistant.
Cunningham testified that he paid Bernard Kilpatrick bribes in connection with two 15-million-dollar city pension deals. Cunningham awaits sentencing after taking a plea deal on one count of conspiracy to bribe. He got busted in a sting operation and took $5,000 from an undercover agent.
Quote of the Week is courtesy of Bernard Kilpatrick’s Attorney John Shay who quotes a line from the movie “Goodfellas” in open court:
“I amuse you? I’m funny like a clown?”
The quote came in response to the repeated outbursts of laughter by witness Marc Andre Cunningham.
Up Next: Testimony resumes on January 3, 2013.