Mistrial declared in bid-rigging case against Detroit contractor Bobby Ferguson

Rod Meloni writes from Bobby Ferguson federal trial courtroom

Author: Rod Meloni, Local 4 Business Editor, @RodMeloni
Published On: Jun 26 2012 09:53:27 AM EDT   Updated On: Aug 03 2012 07:39:50 PM EDT
DETROIT -

A mistrial was declared Tuesday in the federal contract bid-rigging case against Detroit’s Bobby Ferguson.

Ferguson is charged with fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice. He's accused of obtaining millions of dollars in public works contracts through false statements and bid collusion.

Download:Bobby Ferguson Indictment

Download:Ferguson Search Warrant

He's also accused of making false statements in a proposal as part of the Garden View Estates project, a public housing development in Detroit.

Deliberations began Friday but the jury said it was deadlocked Tuesday.

U.S. attorney's office says it will re-try Ferguson

"We are disappointed that these jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict, but we appreciate their time and their work. We will try this case again because it is so important to the citizens of Detroit, who deserve so much better," said Barbara McQuade, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Read: Full statement from U.S. attorney's statement

Three other people charged with Ferguson have pleaded guilty and will testify against him.

Ferguson faces a separate trial in September with Kilpatrick and Kilpatrick's father, Bernard.

Rod Meloni's courtroom updates

2:33 p.m.

A fresh start for the jury did nothing to help get to a verdict. In fact, as things stand this afternoon there is likely to be no verdict at all.

Yes, while we were told on Friday they had some counts agreed to with verdicts on some charges. The seven woman, five man jury with two African Americans changed its mind. Today around mid day the jury came back and told the judge it had no verdicts anymore and was deadlocked on all 24 charges. The defense asked for a mistrial, the judge refused. The jury returned about two hours later and said it was completely deadlocked. The judge told the jury to go back to the jury room and fill out jury forms so he can see where the jury deadlocked. They are out now but destined to return to the courtroom at any minute and the judge appears ready to accept the deadlocked decision. This means mistrial and re-trial. The mistrial is likely to come today… who knows about the re-trial. We’ll keep you updated. I’m heading back up to the courtroom

1P.M.

The defense has moved for a mistrial but Judge David Lawson has told the jury to return to try to decide. They are now saying that they can't decide on any charges, as opposed to the partial verdict that they reported Friday.

They were instructed to return to deliberate until they can reach a unanimous decision.

Lawson declined the mistrial.
Jury is deliberating more, might go for the remainder of the day, says the judge.

9 A.M

The bell rang and the elevator door opened.

Inside was a smiling, laughing Bobby Ferguson surrounded by his and his companies’ attorneys.

They just watched the 11 member jury gather at the Theodore J. Levin Courthouse for its fifth day of deliberations.

The Ferguson group was positively jovial as it left the elevator, laughing and joking with each other as they headed down the marble corridors and out the courthouse back door; more than likely headed to one of the attorney’s offices located within walking distance downtown.

Their spirits buoyed by the lengthy deliberations in this case that have gone in fits and starts. In the community of trial attorneys, the longer a deliberation goes the better it is for the defendant.

The deliberations restarted today after a three day layoff.

Looking back, one juror ended up dismissed because of illness.

Another had to attend a funeral one day. One alternate juror forced deliberations to start over on the second day.

Last Friday “Juror #5” left the panel for a prepaid vacation the Judge, David M. Lawson, promised to allow her to go on before the trial started.

It was anticipated the trial would be over by now. It’s not, and so the jury limps along now with only 11 members.

It is legal, and really makes sense considering starting over deliberations from scratch, yet again, with another alternate juror seemed to make little sense to the judge or the attorneys or the jurors. For them the month long trial has been a grueling. Most of the crimes Ferguson faces have to do with complicated business transactions. He is charged with big rigging in order to get a twelve million dollar construction contract for a federal housing project in Detroit. But it’s not called “bid rigging."

Instead he is charged with “financial structuring” and defrauding the government along with money laundering, lying to federal officers and a couple of weapons charges. Ferguson is a convicted felon and it is illegal for him to have firearms. Two handguns were found in Ferguson’s Guardian Building office downtown when the feds raided it in 2010. One in a safe only Ferguson had the combination to and the other in a desk drawer in his office behind a locked door inside a locked office. The feds say Ferguson attempted to have one of his employees claim ownership of one of the guns.

Download:Bobby Ferguson Indictment

Download:Ferguson Search Warrant

When jurors were in the courtroom last Friday, their body language showed fatigue and frustration.

There are some members who do not understand “financial structuring” and asked the judge to explain that and other intricacies of the law. Other jurors were rolling their eyes; one had his head in his hand throughout the session, obviously rankled over the deliberations’ glacial pace.

This is not going smoothly and the judge sensed it.

The jury said it had unanimously agreed on some counts in the case that involves Ferguson, two of his employees and three of his companies and are deadlocked on others. They asked the judge what they should do, he encouraged them to push on and get unanimous verdicts on all the charges. So, they’ve had a three day weekend and it’s back to the salt mine. Local Four will be at the courthouse today all day and will have updates when and if there is any action.