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.

A RECAP OF THE DEFENSE CLOSING ARGUMENTS FOR KILPATRICK FOLLOWS BELOW:

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.

10:35 a.m.: “Emma Bell wasn’t sharing with Kwame Kilpatrick,” attorney Jim Thomas said, adding Bell wasn’t the “type to share.” He shows a series of checks that show Bell cashing large checks and turning them into cashier’s checks to pay her bills, adding none of that money went to Kilpatrick. “That woman could cry a tear and then freeze me into a block of ice with a stare,” Thomas said.

10:30 a.m. The defense produces a text message from Kilpatrick instructing a staffer to have Emma Bell meet him in former chief of staff Christine Beatty’s office. Attorney Jim Thomas said it wasn’t the type of secret meeting room where Bell could deliver cash. “Hold it against them,” Thomas said, adding the prosecution should have shown the jury that text message.

10:25 a.m. Defense says Kilpatrick prosecutors want jury to “connect the dots” and believe that because Emma Bell had a lot of money and Kilpatrick paid his credit card bills in cash, he got the money from Bell. Bell (who was a Kilpatrick fundraiser when he was in office and testified she had to kick back 50 percent to Kilpatrick himself) lost $82,000 gambling in 2008 alone, Thomas said, adding Bell was no longer working at the time. “Did she keep the money under a mattress and take it to a casino?” Thomas asked.

10:20 a.m. Defense says entire case against Kilpatrick rests on three witnesses: Cobo Center contractor Karl Kado, Kilpatrick former friends and associates Emma Bell and Derrick Miller. Attorney jim Thomas says these witnesses were “bought and paid for,” and concerned only with “what’s in it for me.”

He points out the government “has a lot of power,” to make people bargain, says government used the currency of getting witnesses out of trouble in exchange for testimony. Thomas says Ema Bell hadn’t paid income taxes in 20 years and cried “crocodile tears” in court.”‘She was a person who was crafty,” Thomas said.

10:15 a.m. After a short break, defense attorney Jim Thomas told the jury he wanted to discuss how it is people become witnesses. He pointed out a witness who complained his contract was held up because of Kilpatrick seeking money said “wow” when Thomas pointed out Kilpatrick signed off on it in December 2005, but council didn’t approve it until April 2006. ‘That was kind of an ‘aha’ moment,” Thomas said.

9:55 a.m. Rebutting testimony that the Inland Waters contract for water and sewer work in Detroit wasn’t paid until they agreed to add co-defendant and Kilpatrick pal Bobby Ferguson to the payroll, defense attorney Jim Thomas describes it as “rumor and innuendo.”

Thomas says Kilpatrick was running for office and the race was so tight it was unknown if he would still be the mayor the next term (in 2006.) “It takes much, much longer to get through City Council,” Thomas said. “A crime or responsible government? You decide.”

9:40 a.m.: Defense brings up documents pointing out court records lauding Kilpatrick for bringing the Water Department in compliance with the Clean Water Act. “Does that sound like irresponsible (leadership)?” Thomas asked.

Thomas adds Kilpatrick was criticized for text messages with Ferguson (which the prosecution introduced because they seemed to show the two working out side deals), but Thomas said part of mayor’s job is communicating with constituents.

“He wasn’t the only person doing business in the city of Detroit, but because of the text messages we see what it is we see, some of it is embarrassing, some of it probably not well thought out,” Thomas said.

9:30 a.m.: Defense attorney Jim Thomas tries to poke holes in the extortion claims, saying one of the biggest contractors in the city of Detroit, who said he feared he would lose bids without Ferguson included as a subcontractor, “doesn’t make sense.”

“Fear of economic harm? These are victims?” Thomas said, pointing out rich some of the people who testified against Kilpatrick are.

He says it was responsible government for Kilpatrick to use contractor with the most experience, who was closest to the construction site.

9:25 a.m. Defense takes on racketeering charge, alleging Kilpatrick went with contractors  he knew he could rely on. He says  equalization credit (which the city used to award Ferguson jobs when he was the higher bidder) went to businesses with Detroit residents as employees. “I’m hoping that you see there’s a reason for that,” Thomas said. “The businesses that feed people … have moved out of the city.” He says preferences were established that gave people with Detroit headquarters a “leg up” in bidding process.

9:15 a.m.: Defense attorney Thomas starts off with the state arts grant that was supposed to fund programs for kids and Kilpatrick allegedly funneled into a faux job for his wife Carlita Kilpatrick. Thomas says “it was a necessary job and it was helpful,” says Carlita did perform work for the pay.

“I thought it was a slap in the face,” Thomas says about testimony referencing Carlita just “wanting to get paid.” “That made me wince a little bit, I hope it made you wince, too,” Thomas says.

9:10 a.m.: Kilpatrick’s attorney says, “we came in here with a lot of baggage … He (Kilpatrick) has been demonized in the media.” He says entire case rests on the credibility of witnesses and says jury has to decide if witnesses were hiding something or “are in fact a truthful person.”

9 a.m. Looking much jollier than he did Monday,  Kilpatrick takes a seat at the defense table, laughing and slapping the back of attorney Jim Thomas. He turns and chats, laughing and smiling, with people in the court audience.

The judge announces some members of the jury feel ill so they’ve been moved to seats closer to the restroom.

_____

The attorneys for Kilpatrick and his co-defendants have to rebut nearly 70 days of testimony from witnesses ranging from business owners to former associates who claim the former mayor and his closest allies used his office as a for-profit enterprise benefitting only themselves.

Prosecutor Michael Bullotta went through a greatest hits-style two-hour closing argument Monday where he showed video, text messages and reminders of the most striking testimony in the case.

Included were allegations that Cobo Hall contractor Karl Kado knew he had to deliver $10,000 cash to the mayor’s office anytime he got a call from Kilpatrick asking him to stop by. Another businessman seeking City Hall contracts said he got no interest from the Kilpatrick Administration until he paid $4,800 to get the mayor’s suits out of layaway — and was then invited to bid on a contract.

But there was a catch, he testified, because he soon learned Kilpatrick’s longtime best friend Bobby Ferguson had to be included as a subcontractor for him to win any work.

Bullotta also highlighted testimony from former Kilpatrick pal Derrick Miller and fundraiser and family friend Emma Bell, who both laid out a system of kickbacks and bribes they said they had to follow when Kilpatrick was in office. Testimony detailed cash delivered in a vacuum cleaner bag, taken from shoes, stored in Bell’s bra and delivered in the bathroom of a local Chinese restaurant, among other oddballs.

Bernard Kilpatrick was  part of the mix, some testified, saying they had to pay him, too, to keep working in Detroit. The FBI secretly taped a contractor meeting with Bernard Kilpatrick and getting berated by the former mayor’s father for delivering cash in a public parking lot.

Kwame Kilpatrick, Bernard Kilpatrick and Ferguson are charged with an array of federal mail and tax fraud, corruption and racketeering charges. The jury is expected to get the case Thursday.

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