Day 2: Kwame Kilpatrick Defense Presents Final Arguments

By Christy Strawser

DETROIT (CBS Detroit) The stakes are high Tuesday as Detroit ex-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s attorney gets one final chance to convince a federal jury he is  innocent.

As testament to the importance of the day, Kilpatrick’s mother, former Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, his wife Carlita and their three sons came to court for the first time. Kilpatrick Tweeted before the court day began, “Victory Day, blessed to have my squad with me.”

The defense presented their final arguments starting at 9 a.m., following two hours of prosecution wrap-up Monday. 

Attorneys are expected to do separate closing arguments for co-defendants Bobby Ferguson and Bernard Kilpatrick, before handing the case over to the jury Thursday.


11:55 a.m.: “Let Mr. Kilpatrick go home with his wife and kids,” attorney Jim Thomas says, ending his closing argument.

11:50 a.m.: Attorney Jim Thomas sums up his closing arguments, urging the jury to attack government case. He explains the “three pillars of this case,” Karl Kado, Derrick Miller and Emma Bell, and a fourth, Mahlon Clift, are not trustworthy. “Derrick Miller for Derrick Miller,” Thomas said. “He’s a rogue out there on his own.” “Karl Kado, demented,” he said, adding, “Mahlon Clift, no corroboration …  Emma Bell, oh my God… you have reason to doubt, you have a lot of reason to doubt.”

11:40 a.m.: Attorney Jim Thomas says witness Mahlon Clift who allegedly delivered $90,000 to Kilpatrick in Texas from Ferguson has no record of a hotel stay in Detroit or a plane ticket to Detroit. Clift testified he got the cash through airport security and delivered it in a vacuum bag to Kilpatrick. “It’s incredible,” Thomas said, alluding to the idea Clift could not have gotten $90,000 through security in his pocket. It didn’t happen, Thomas said.

11:35 a.m.: Attorney Jim Thomas says a $1,395 check for SPY Ops from the civic fund, which the government listed as a personal Kilpatrick expense, was actually an item for the Detroit Police Department. Another expenditure, for lodging, was paid back by the Kilpatricks, Thomas said.

11:35 a.m.: Court resumes after a short break, and attorney Jim Thomas apologizes that his closing argument is going so long, saying it will go another 20 minutes.

11:25 a.m.: During a short break, Kilpatrick hangs in the audience with Bobby Ferguson, his wife and young sons, smiling and chatting. Carlita Kilpatrick shares a big laugh with Ferguson.

11:15 a.m.: On the gifting front, attorney Jim Thomas said witness Sharon McPhail (a former mayoral opponent who testified for Kilpatrick) outlined how cash gifts were expected. “Sharon McPhail’s testimony was unrefuted,” Thomas said. “How do you get around that?” Thomas said the gifting issue was the most pivotal issue.

11:10 a.m.: When the government tells you they tried to eliminate every source of cash for Kwame Kilpatrick, is it advocacy? attorney Jim Thomas asks, adding the analysis of Kilpatrick’s spending is flawed. Thomas adds tax records show the Kilpatricks together made $375,000 in gross income before he came into office and “that’s not taken into account.” He added a joint account they had with $46,000 in it wasn’t considered. “Is that scientific?” Thomas asks, adding the government equation didn’t take gifting into account. “That’s evidence of gifting,” Thomas said, pointing out the mayor requested cash as gifts for his 30th birthday and for his wedding.

11:05 a.m.: “He is the mayor, the face of the city of Detroit, his wife is first lady,” attorney Jim Thomas said, explaining a trip by the Kilpatricks charged to the civic fund.

10:55 a.m.: The defense moves on the civic fund that Kilpatrick allegedly used as a piggy bank to pay for lavish vacations, golf clubs and $3,000 in yoga lessons. The fund was run by Kilpatrick, then by his former chief of staff and lover Christine Beatty (whose secret affair set off a chain of events that led to Kilpatrick’s resignation from office and first round of criminal charges.) Thomas points out $13,953 in alleged personal expenses charged to the civic fund, saying it was only .79 percent of the total money in the fund. He adds  Kilpatrick worked “very hard.”

10:50 a.m.: Defense discusses a witness, John Rutherford, who was trying to another casino in Detroit and admitted he bought Kilpatrick suits and donated cash to the former mayor, but that was not with the expectation he would get anything in return. And he testified he didn’t get anything in return.

10:45 a.m: On former Kilpatrick best friend turned prosecution witness Derrick Miller, attorney Jim Thomas said he was “craftiest” witness of all. “You have the right to judge what it is this man has done in the past,” Thomas said.

“Did you get a sense when I was asking him questions that he wasn’t completely candid?” Thomas asked the jury about Miller, who cut a deal with the prosecution for lower charges on his own tax evasion charges. “Derrick Miller is another bought and paid for witness,” Thomas said, adding he’s willing to save himself by testifying against his former pal.

10:40 a.m.: “Why 12 meetings?” attorney Jim Thomas asks about meetings between prosecutors and witness Karl Kado, the Cobo Center contractor who testified he had to kick back $10,000 to Kilpatrick anytime the mayor called and asked for a meeting. Thomas said the meetings with prosecutors were meant to craft Kado’s testimony. “You have to look at the logic of what he says,” Thomas said, adding Kado at one point said he delivered money when there was 8 inches of snow on the ground and later recalled the same incident happening in August.  “He’s been suffering from dementia,” Thomas said.


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