Local business magnate Tony Soave testified Wednesday to letting Kwame Kilpatrick and his entourage make 20 round-trip jaunts on his private jets to the tune of more than $389,000 worth of flights. And on one of these trips, a Christmas shopping spree in New York City, Soave bought Kilpatrick an $800 pair of shoes, a $1,200 purse and a $6,000 Cartier watch for his father and co-defendant Bernard Kilpatrick.
Soave, who commented that the witness seat was warm having recently been vacated by IRS agent Rowena Schuch, told the court that Kwame Kilpatrick treated himself to 135.7 flight hours aboard the businessman's private jets.
Soave owns three private planes including a turbo commander and a Falcon 25.
Kilpatrick's destinations included warm locales like Nassau, Bahamas, Bermuda, Naples, Florida as well as the Hamptons, Mackinaw Island, Boston and New York City. On August 2nd 2006, Kilpatrick and 8 others used the plane to fly Bermuda. Earlier in the trial, Detroit Police Commander Dwayne Love, who once worked on Kilpatrick's executive security detail, testified that in 2006 he flew on a jet with Kilpatrick, Ferguson and other staffers on a 3 day "thank you" trip to Bermuda to celebrate the mayor's re-election.
~Tony Soave leaving court on Wednesday~
Soave testified to taking Kilpatrick on his jet to New York twice. One of these trips was the infamous spree where Soave sprung for Kilpatrick gifts of a pair of shoes, a purse and the $6,000 watch for his father. Back in September, Love had testified to accompanying Soave and Kilpatrick on the trip to New York along with Kwame's former mistress Christine Beatty.
The court also heard how Kilpatrick called Soave to get his helping securing 2 rooms at the exclusive Ritz Carlton hotel in Naples, Florida in April 2007. A five day stay at $1,499 a night helped bring Kilpatrick's hotel tab to more than $9,000. Soave testified to paying a good portion of the bill.
Other costly expenditures on Kilpatrick's behalf included $10,000 basketball tickets for 2 floor seats ("They were great seats," said Soave) to the Detroit Pistons NBA finals in 2004 and at least $175,000 in contributions to the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.
At no point, Soave testified, did Kilpatrick offer to reimburse the flights, the plush Ritz hotel stay or the lavish gifts.
Read Oct. 10th testimony:Businessman: 'I gave Kilpatrick nearly $500,000'
US Attorney Michael Bullotta asked why the witness continued with his excessive generosity towards the defendant.
"Because he's the mayor," replied Soave. "It's hard to turn the mayor down. I didn't want to get on the wrong side of him."
Soave also mentioned, "I didn't want him to hold up another job." The businessman testified that, in 2002, a $50 million Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) contract, 1368, with Soave's company Inland Waters had lingered on the mayor's desk without final approval. Soave went to visit the then Detroit mayor to ask what the hold up was.
"He told me I had the wrong sub-contractor," the witness told the court.
Soave's minority sub-contractor at the time was former attorney and DWSD director Charlie Williams.
"I asked what was the right one. He told me Ferguson," said Soave referring to contractor and co-defendant Bobby Ferguson.
Soave recounted how he let Williams go from the contract and took on Ferguson instead. Soave's manager for the project, former Soave Enterprises Vice-President Kathleen McCann, would tell her boss that Ferguson was a "handful" and frequently complain to him about her interactions with the defendant. Soave testified that it was unusual for a sub-contractor to speak to them the way Ferguson did and that the contractor would go so far as to tell them, "You realize you're here because of me." The witness said he took that to be a threat.
Soave said he asked Kwame Kilpatrick multiple times "Is Bobby Ferguson still your guy?" To which Kilpatrick would reply, "Yes, he's still my guy."
At some point, Soave learned that Bobby wanted to become a partner with Inland Waters. McCann told her boss that Ferguson said that the next time Inland Waters got a contract, he wanted to partner or get 50-50 on the deal.
"I told her, 'You can tell him to go eff himself," said an irritated Soave about the proposed partnership.
Defense will cross-examine the witness when court resumes Thursday at 9 a.m.
About the author
Alexandra Harland is a Princeton undergrad and has a masters degree in International affairs with Columbia. A Montreal native, she worked with the Daily Telegraph newspaper for a few years before transitioning to TV, when she worked at ABC News with Peter Jennings. Alexandra has also worked in newsrooms in both Detroit and Boston.