Day 17 recap

Three sisters testified today to signing money orders on Bobby Ferguson's instructions in order to circumvent limits on personal donations to Kwame Kilpatrick's mayoral campaign.

Ferguson's former lover Renee Newsome testified along with sisters Josephine Johnson and Darlene Jefferson to being asked to sign money orders in July 2004. The contractor presented each of the women with 4 money orders totaling $3,400. The orders were unambiguously made out to "Kilpatrick for Mayor". The limit for personal contributions to a political campaign is $3,400.

When Ferguson heard that his girlfriend of 7 years was to be questioned by the FBI, he told her to "stick to your story." Newsome admitted that as a result she initially lied to investigators about the money orders

U.S. Attorney Jennifer Blackwell asked the witness what Ferguson meant when he said that.

"That the money was mine," replied Newsome.

Newsome's sister Darlene Jefferson testified that in 2005, before she was due to testify to a grand jury, Ferguson came into her bedroom and told her to say that the money never came from him. Jefferson said that Ferguson warned her if she didn't, it would fall back on her sister Renee and "she would get in trouble for the money order."

All three sisters were refunded the full amount of the campaign contributions around the time they were being questioned by the FBI. They testified they never returned the money to Ferguson.

Earlier in the morning, convicted businessman Jon Rutherford was asked by Kwame Kilpatrick defense lawyer Jim Thomas if he had any expectation of remuneration or reward for his various financial contributions to the Kilpatricks. No replied Rutherford. This seemed contrary to yesterday's testimony which indicated he hoped that he would land an ambitious casino project on the East Riverfront in return for his financial favors.

Witness Ahmad Chebbani, the co-founder of the Arab-American Chamber of Commerce, told the court about a trip to Dubai in May 2002. Chebbani led a Detroit trade delegation that included Kwame Kilpatrick, his former bodyguard Loronzo Jones and former aide Derrick Miller. On the last night of the four day trip, Kilpatrick left in the middle of a dinner with high-ranking Dubai officials in order to get fitted for a suit. Yesterday Rutherford testified to giving Killpatrick $10,000 for suits for the Dubai trip.

Upon return from the trip, Chebbani said he got a call from Miller asking about the shipping of suits. The witness said he was surprised by the question and told him he knew nothing about it. Miller told him that it seemed the suits had gotten lost in the mail.

Ernest Johnson of non-profit Community Coalition testified that he was contacted by Bernard Kilpatrick in 2001. Kilpatrick wanted the civic organization to endorse Kwame for mayor in the upcoming election. Johnson testified to receiving nearly $90,000 from Rutherford's DPR Management LLC to help pay for staffers who distributed election brochures and drivers who would take voters to the polls. On election day in November 2001, Johnson met with Rutherford to get a check for several thousand which he cashed at a grocery store.

"People at the top of the slate pay the slate," said Johnson.

Court resumes on Monday at 9AM.

8:38AM Courtroom is slowly filling up. Bobby Ferguson and Bernard Kilpatrick are already at the defendants table with their lawyers.

Kwame Kilpatrick enters and walks straight over to Bobby to talk to him. Victor Mercado is the last of the defendants to arrive this morning.

We'll be continuing testimony today from homeless shelter owner Jon Rutherford. The convicted felon testified yesterday to essentially bankrolling Kwame and Bernard in the hopes of landing a casino project on the East Riverfront. The deal would have yielded Rutherford up to a $25 million payout. Unfortunately for sugar daddy, his casino dreams never materialized.

Rutherford's testimony took the better part of the morning yesterday and the government hasn't even finished questioning him yet. Cross examination is likely to be long- both Jim Thomas, Kwame's defense lawyer, and John Shea, Bernard's lawyer, are bound to have countless questions for him.

Supposed to start early this morning to take up a legal matter before the jurors arrive.

8:51AM Judge Nancy Edmunds enters the courtroom declaring "Everyone happy this morning?"

Judge Edmunds talking about Rutherford. "I'm not going to say he was hostile, he was rough. But that's who he is."

Judge Edmunds tells the lawyers she will not be calling Rutherford a hostile witness. Calls the jurors in.

8:54AM "Sugar Daddy" Jon Rutherford takes the stand. Mark Chutkow for the government will be continuing questioning.

Chutkow is asking Rutherford about what Bernard's hopes were after Kwame was elected. Chutkow says that Rutherford had told him he didn't remember the conversation.

Now talking about grand jury testimony in April 2010 when Chutkow and Michael Bullotta asked Rutherford a series of questions. He hands the witness the transcript of that testimony.