By Christy Strawser
DETROIT (CBS Detroit) – The jury has spoken in the federal corruption trial of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, and they said he’s guilty of the most important charge: racketeering.
Sentencing will happen at a later date, but the conviction carries a possible penalty of up to 20 years in prison. A bond hearing was set for 1:30 p.m. Monday, where the judge will decide whether they go free until sentencing — or go straight to jail.
Kwame Kilpatrick, Bernard Kilpatrick and Bobby Ferguson were hit with more than 30 charges of federal mail and tax fraud, extortion, bribery and racketeering — with Kilpatrick convicted of 24 charges. Ferguson was the only one without tax fraud charges, and Bernard Kilpatrick was the only one not convicted of racketeering.
Bobby Ferguson was accosted by a scrum of reporters and members of the public on his way out of the building, with some screaming he took money meant for children. Ferguson remained mostly stone faced, saying only “God is good.” A stunned-looking Kwame Kilpatrick waded through the throng of reporters without saying a word.
This verdict caps off an emotional few months of testimony, and pleas from the prosecutor and defense attorneys, both claiming the other has no basis in fact. The jury indicated they decided their verdict Friday, after 12 days of deliberation, but wanted to sleep on it over the weekend before making it final.
The attorneys for Kilpatrick and his co-defendants Bobby Ferguson and Kwame Kilpatrick’s father Bernard Kilpatrick oversaw nearly 70 days of testimony from witnesses ranging from business owners to former associates who claimed the former mayor and his closest allies used his office as a for-profit enterprise benefitting only themselves.
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.
Prosecutor Michael 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.
Defense attorney Jim Thomas said during his closing arguments that Miller and Bell were liars trying to save themselves from tax charges by testifying against Kilpatrick. He claimed Kado had dementia.
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 contractor James Rosendall meeting with Bernard Kilpatrick and getting berated by the former mayor’s father for delivering cash in a public parking lot.
His defense claimed he was doing legitimate work and expecting legitimate pay.
Prosecutors said Ferguson made more than $80 million while Kilpatrick was in office with schemes hatched between himself and the mayor, showing stacks and stacks of cash he had hidden in his home and office.
Ferguson’s defense Gerald Evelyn seemed on the verge of tears in open court as he invoked Martin Luther King Jr., describing Ferguson as a hard-working minority businessman who employed Detroiters.