DETROIT - Prosecutors in the Kwame Kilpatrick federal corruption trial introduced into evidence Wednesday a series of damaging text exchanges between defendants Kilpatrick and friend Bobby Ferguson about a contract with the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD).
The cross-examination of government witness Kathleen McCann, former employee of local billionaire Tony Soave, was deferred until Ferguson's defense lawyer Susan Van Dusen recovers from a nasty fall on her face in the courthouse Monday.
McCann had testified earlier to former Detroit mayor Kilpatrick holding up DWSD contract 1368 with her company Inland Waters until they agreed to employ Ferguson as a sub-contractor. The defense had argued that was an inaccurate portrayal of the former mayor's powers with the DWSD and that contracts were approved by City Council and not Kilpatrick.
The text exchanges introduced today seemed to indicate rather differently.
EPA agent Carol Paszkiewicz took the witness stand. US Attorney Mark Chutkow led her methodically through a series of texts mostly between Ferguson and Kilpatrick about contract 1368.
The first exchange between Kilpatrick and Ferguson is dated October 30th 2002, some months after Inland Waters started work on 1368. Ferguson texts Kilpatrick to ask when he is meeting with Soave. Kilpatrick texts back: "Don't know will holla back later."
Ferguson further references Soave in a November 4th 2002 exchange with Kilpatrick where they are discussing the Graimark housing development and the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. Ferguson tells Kilpatrick that he met with the Graimark people and that he "don't cry for sh$% that don't help both of us" but what "we need to talk about is fu@^ing Soave. Again Kilpatrick responds, "Yeah. i'll holla later about that."
On August 9th 2004, Ferguson texted Kilpatrick "Tonys very smart he didn't call me back Kathleen did asking what was the meeting I requesting pertaining to." Ten days later, on August 19th 2004, Inland Waters received a stop work order on 1368 which stipulated that Ferguson restoration issues had to be addressed.
Nearly a month later, in a September 2nd 2004 exchange with Kilpatrick, Ferguson slams McCann texting the former mayor "I had a meeting with Kathleen the bitch had the nerve to punk me out." This was a few weeks after the August 2004 sinkhole collapse at 15 mile in Sterling Heights. McCann testified last week that Ferguson took credit for getting Inland Waters the project to reinforce the earth and replace the collapsed sewer line.
A day earlier, on September 1st, Kilpatrick had texted Ferguson about the sinkhole saying "You got to get with Victor on this Sterling Hts job. He said you were meeting him out here." To which Ferguson replied "Yes sir boss, we need to talk today about that if you have time sir..."
A little later, Ferguson texts Kilpatrick more about his participation in the project: "we need to meet on how i move in. i got a great idea sir holla in the am..."
Ferguson Enterprises ultimately made $3.1 million on the sinkhole repair.
The government also dented the defense's argument that Kilpatrick had no authority as mayor over the approval of water contracts by introducing documents which proved that he used his powers as special administrator to authorize amendment #4 to contract 1368.
Jim Thomas, lawyer for Kilpatrick, argued that the texts were out of context and were being misinterpreted by the witness. He also argued that it was not unusual for contractors to leverage their connections within the DWSD to get water contracts. Thomas cited contractor DLZ as an example of a company using "ethnic relationships" to get work.
"I don't know about ethnic relationships," replied the witness.
Cross-examination will resume Thursday at 9AM.
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.