Carlita Kilpatrick's money to be prosecution's focus in her husband's federal trial

Prosecution wants jury to see extent Kwame Kilpatrick, Bobby Ferguson allegedly went to prosper from Kilpatrick's position as Detroit mayor

Published On: Sep 26 2012 11:00:40 PM EDT   Updated On: Sep 28 2012 03:53:57 PM EDT
DETROIT -

Federal court has already heard from people who say they hid money in vacuum cleaners for former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, threw cash in birthday boxes for him and even a bodyguard who says he was sent on an errand to get $1,500 out of a pair of shoes in Kilpatrick's closet.

However, during the next few days, the court will hear about money involving another Kilpatrick -- Kwame's wife Carlita.

Carlita Kilpatrick has been standing by her husband, but she is skipping his trial of a century. Instead, Carlita is staying home with the Kilpatrick children at their sprawling Grand Prairie, Texas home.

This week's testimony in the federal corruption case began with testimony from Kwame's longtime friend, Mahlon Clift, who actually introduced Carlita and Kwame to each other back in college. Clift says out of love for the Kilpatrick family he agreed to transport $90,000 in cash from defendant Bobby Ferguson to Kilpatrick in 2008, a time when money was drying up after he resigned from office in Detroit.

Now, the court will hear about grant money that ended up in Carlita's pockets early on in her husband's days of politics.

Here is how prosecutors say it worked:

When Kwame was in the Michigan state legislature he pushed hard for state grant money for no profits. The first was a company called Detroit 3D, run by his friend Ferguson. With Kilpatrick's blessing, Ferguson was given $250,000. He gave $100,000 of that money to Carlita's newly-formed company, U.N.I.T.E. For the money, Mrs. Kilpatrick was to provide resolution and character building for children at Detroit schools.

Kwame Kilpatrick federal trial special section

"The question is going to be was the money Ferguson funneled through Mrs. Kilpatrick used for charitable purposes it was supposed to be used for, or was it used as a mechanism for transferring funds from Bobby Ferguson to Kwame Kilpatrick?" said Local 4 Legal Expert Keith Corbett.

The second non profit was Vanguard, which was run by Rev. Edgar Vann of the Second Ebenezer Church. Vann's non profit received $300,000 in state money and immediately agreed to pay Carlita Kilpatrick's U.N.I.T.E. $75,000.

However, Vanguard stopped payments to Carlita at $37,500. That's when questions were raised about the money. Vann will take the stand in the next few days and so will the director of the fund who has said Carlita's program never happened.

"There will probably be a witness from the government to show that maybe she didn't. But, they story is not over. You have to go to the next phase to see if Mrs. Kilpatrick actually did do work," said Local 4 Legal Expert Todd Flood. "Was there something she did in exchange to make those two entities benefit from her work?"

At the time, state Senator Dan Degrown was outraged. He said funds never would have been approved if they knew Kwame Kilpatrick was steering the money to non profits which were hiring his wife. Degrow will take the witness stand, too.

Flood says the defense will be sure to ask him about political pork projects on both sides of the aisle.

"I would be surprised if he was surprised that horse trading wasn't going on and that he would not have passed the bill regardless," Flood said.

Prosecution hopes focus on Carlita's money will let jury see extent of Kwame's alleged corruption

Carlita Kilpatrick's name also is coming up in testimony about cashiers checks signed by her from accounts the feds say had hundreds of thousands of unexplained dollars. There have been past media reports of vacations the entire Kilpatrick family went on with money from the Kilpatrick Civic Fund. That has some wondering why Carlita Kilpatrick was not charged with crimes.

"It's always a concern when you charge a husband and wife," said Corbett. "You just have to operate under the principal that the evidence did not support any criminal charges against her."

Flood says although it may all look really bad for Ferguson and the Kilpatricks, it might not be proved illegal.

"It may look terrible. It may look awful, and it doesn't follow the moral compass. But it may not violate the law," said Flood.

Legal experts say talking about Carlita Kilpatrick's money is not about building a case against her. It's to show the extent her husband and Ferguson went to take care of each other while Kilpatrick held public office.

It's for the jury to decide if the transactions are above the board or against the law.

Court resumes Thursday.