DETROIT (AP/CBS Detroit) — A high-ranking aide to former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick told jurors Monday that he picked up thousands of dollars in bribes for his boss from a contractor at the city’s convention center where both men had broad powers over operations.
Derrick Miller, who was Detroit’s chief administrative officer, said he collected thousands of dollars “once or twice,” typically in stacks of hundred-dollar bills, for Kilpatrick, whom he has known since high school. Miller said he also took his own payoffs from Karl Kado, who held contracts at Cobo Center during Kilpatrick nearly seven years in office.
“I picked it up from Kado, took it to (Kilpatrick). … I didn’t count it but it was a lot of money. Five (thousand) to 10,000,” said Miller, whose testimony matched what Kado said earlier in the trial.
Miller’s testimony is important for prosecutors trying to prove that Kilpatrick, his father Bernard and pal Bobby Ferguson spent years rigging contracts and taking payoffs. Miller was a defendant in the case until 2011, when he pleaded guilty to taking bribes and committing tax crimes and agreed to help the government.
“In his plea deal there is specific language that if Derrick Miller does a good job for the prosecution, the prosecution will recommend a sentence lower than the 10 years, so there is no doubt about it when the cross examination comes against Derrick Miller, probably tomorrow, that will be a major, major part of the case,” said WWJ Legal Analyst Charlie Langton.
How did Kilpatrick react to his former best friend’s testimony?
Kilpatrick at times grinned, shook his head, consulted with his lawyer and took many notes while Miller, nicknamed “Zeke,” answered questions from Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow.
Miller met Kilpatrick in a ninth-grade English class and later worked on his staff at the state Legislature. He helped hatch Kilpatrick first run for mayor in 2001 and held senior roles at city hall.
As chief administrative officer, Miller had authority over Cobo Center, its director and contractors. Cobo now is run by a regional board and no longer is solely in the hands of city government.
“It was wrong to take cash from a contractor I was responsible for overseeing,” Miller said of his own illegal payments.
Monday was the 49th day of Kilpatrick’strial.
Earlier, prosecutors displayed checks on a screen to reinforce allegations of illegal spending from Kilpatrick’s Civic Fund, which was promoted as a nonprofit fund to help the community. Checks from the fund paid for golf clubs, yoga, an $8,600 stay at a resort and political polling. Miller signed many of them.
Miller said Kilpatrick lied when he said at a 2001 debate that Civic Fund money wasn’t used by the campaign. When a TV station learned about the trip to a resort in Carlsbad, Calif., Kilpatrick told his aides that he was there to raise money for the fund, but that wasn’t true either, Miller said.
“He basically had to come up with some kind of response,” Miller testified.
Miller pleaded guilty in 2011, admitting he accepted $115,000 from a real estate broker in connection with the lease or sale of city properties and $10,000 from a contractor at Cobo Center, a convention hall. Miller has yet to be sentenced, but his cooperation could help him avoid a maximum punishment of 10 years in prison.
Kilpatrick, a Democrat whose mother is former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, was elected mayor in 2001. He resigned in 2008 and pleaded guilty to obstructing justice by lying in a civil case about having sex with an aide. He subsequently served 14 months in prison for violating his probation in that case.
It was expected to be the start of blockbuster testimony when Kwame Kilpatrick’s lifelong best friend took the stand Monday in the former Detroit mayor’s corruption trial.
Things ended early — before some of the expected bombshells dropped — but they’ll resume in federal court Tuesday.
Miller, former chief administrative officer from 2002 to 2005, testified that he met Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty, the woman who would become his mistress and chief of staff in high school. He started working in politics in 1997 when he became a staffer for Kilpatrick’s mother, former Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick.
Kilpatrick was his best man in his wedding.
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