Testimony resumed Monday in the Kwame Kilpatrick federal corruption trial after it was put on break for the Thanksgiving holiday.
Before the week-long break, businessman Avinash Rachmale testified that his firm cut Detroit contractor Bobby Ferguson in on multi-million dollar deals to keep him happy.
Rachmale said Ferguson, who is also a longtime friend of Kilpatrick, threatened to shut down his projects numerous times.
Kilpatrick faces tax, conspiracy, fraud, extortion and bribery charges. His co- defendants in the trial include Ferguson and his father, Bernard.
Ex-Detroit water chief Victor Mercado had also been charged but has since pleaded guilty.
It’s been a little while since we’ve sat in on the Kwame Kilpatrick, Bobby Ferguson and Bernard Kilpatrick corruption trial. Judge Nancy Edmunds ordered a holiday break and so court has been out since November 16th.
If this blog "voice" sounds a little different it’s because it’s Paula Tutman, filling in for the vacationing Shawn Ley. Kevin Dietz will be sliding into this seat shortly.
How about we get you caught up. In case you’ve forgotten, how could you? AND THEN THERE WERE THREE. The Water Department’s, Victor Mercado plead guilty Nov. 5th, just before the break. He will face up to 18-months in prison for his role in the alleged pay-for-play schemes leading through Kwame Kilpatrick’s office. And while he now stands convicted, Kilpatrick and his crew have not been, so we’re sticking with “alleged” because where Kwame, Bernard and Bobby are concerned that’s what these crimes are... alleged. In case you’re wondering, the jury has not been told why Mercado is no longer sitting at that long defense table, just that he’s not part of the trial, anymore.
The jury has been ordered to avoid any media on the trial, so they shouldn’t have any idea why there are now three defendants and not four.
The three left are colorful characters, indeed. They take the long way into the court house every day to make sure TV cameras catch them in whatever attire they happen to be sporting that day, and to make sure the public sees that they’ve been maintaining their collective, “What me worry” demeanor. Bobby Ferguson is usually pumping his fists, frowning and making it look like he’s giving his defense team the orders.
Kwame Kilpatrick sports glasses, a scarf or some fashion item. He usually has a smile on his face and loves it when people honk their horns on Fort Street and yell, “Free Kwame,” as he enters.
The usually chatty Bernard, patriarch of the Kilpatrick clan is a little more circumspect, is dying to say something but is heeding his defense team and staying mum as he enters the courthouse. He’s always polite, smiles nicely, but his eyes show a little worry every time I’ve seen him go in.
And honestly, guilty or innocent, who wouldn’t be worried. These guys face serious charges. We’re talking about various corruption charges between them. The crimes these three are accused of committing are hefty. Bribery, corruption, tax evasion, wire & mail fraud, extortion and obstruction of justice. Kwame faces 33 various charges, his boyhood pal, Bobby faces 14 various charges and Bernard faces 6 various charges.
I did a little math because I had a little extra time before court resumed today. If you add up all of the charges, possible jail time and fines, if these three are convicted of all 53 various charges, they would spend a combined 86 years in prison and pay $1.7 million din fines. That $1.7 million is an interesting number today. Stay tuned, I’ll explain in a minute.
So much for background, let’s get to the current stuff. When we left off ten days ago, Avinash Rachmale, former vice president of Lakeshore Engineering, was testifying that his firm tried to intercept the influence of Bobby Ferguson who allegedly played Godfather to city contracts. The Feds say, Ferguson became the guy who nodded his head to let City contracts go through, or gave the thumbs down when he wasn’t cut in on the deal. If the Feds are right, he had a sweet deal, indeed. They claim he demanded money to do zero work. The payoffs were allegedly to keep Ferguson from throwing roadblocks into the mix. The last thing the jury heard before heading off for Thanksgiving dinner was that Lakeshore Engineering paid Ferguson $1.7 million to keep him smiling and out of their hair.
If that sounds like a lot of cash to pay a guy to do absolutely nothing, if you believe Mr. Rachmale, it was a bargain. He (Rachmale) testified under oath that he believed Bobby Ferguson sandbagged as much as $15 million worth of city contracts in 2003 because the gravy train hadn’t gone through Ferguson Station first.
As soon as Lakeshore Engineering paid the $1.7 million -fare, according to Rachmale, the switch was thrown and trains moved along the city tracks. It’s a big charge and one Ferguson’s highly paid, highly aggressive defense attorney, Gerald Evelyn will try to throw water on. And that’s what we expect to see today.
Okay, everyone caught up? Testimony resumes at 9:00 am so stay tuned.
Day 27: Court is in session.
Judge is taking up a sidebar issue before the jury comes in. A motioned was filed Sunday in regard to agent summaries. Okay, here’s where I promise to only blog about stuff that will be of real interest in the real prosecution of this case. While there are a lot of legal underpinnings that are important and relevant, it’s stuff you probably don’t want clogging up your phone. But I thought I’d lay the groundwork for my style early. Stay tuned... Jury still to be called, testimony still to come...
The judge made reference to the case being still active... in the second week in January. She wanted to know if the prosecution will if its ‘proofs’ in by then. Hold on guys, it’s going to be a long and bumpy ride.
Okay, taking the stand right now is Avinash Rachmale, former vice president of Lakeshore Engineering. Remember he was testifying that his firm tried to intercept the influence of Bobby Ferguson who allegedly played Godfather to city contracts.