DETROIT - Defense lawyers did their best to diffuse potentially incriminating texts introduced by the government yesterday by saying they were simply being misinterpreted.
Mike Rataj, a lawyer for Bobby Ferguson's defense team, came out swinging at the government witness, EPA agent Carol Paszkiewicz.
Rataj started off by asking Paszkiewicz if she understood the concept of witness sequestration whereby witnesses who will be testifying in a trial are precluded from listening to the testimony of other witnesses.
Paszkiewicz is one of a handful of federal agents who are testifying in the Kilpatrick trial and have been able to listen to other witnesses due to an exemption to sequestration. Rataj's obvious implication for the jury was that the EPA agent was tailoring her direct testimony to fall in line with previous witnesses.
Then it came time to address yesterday's incredibly inventive texts, most of which were between Ferguson and Kwame Kilpatrick.
The exchange that Rataj chose to focus on was one from February 18th 2004 between Ferguson and the former Detroit mayor. Prosecution had used it yesterday, along with several other texts, to artfully illustrate behind the scenes scrambling to rig water contracts for Ferguson.
Ferguson to Kilpatrick: "Hate to bother you, but you need to hear this. Pratap people stopped negotiation with my people and is trying to give water main job to one of the other contractors." "Pratap people" referred to DLZ, the prime contractors for water contracts under umbrella contract CM 2012.
Kilpatrick to Ferguson: "WHAT?"
Ferguson to Kilpatrick: "Is just what you said before when we are not a part of the decision making, we get fu$#ed no matter how the process started. You still in the office."
Stating that his client was a proud black man who used "street language", Rataj then asked the witness if "my people" couldn't be Willie McCormick, the only other African-American contractor who had not been awarded a contract under CM 2012 at that point.
The increasingly exasperated witness conceded that "it's not a fact but it is a possibility".
To which Rataj retorted "So it's a fact that it's a possibility!"
Rataj went on to ask her if the "we" mentioned later in the exchange couldn't mean black people or even the black race as a whole. "I don't know," answered a visibly irritated Paszkiewicz.
US Attorney Mark Chutkow shot down that whole theory when he pointed out that Ferguson didn't say "our people" to Kilpatrick, another African-American man, but rather "my people."
Jim Thomas, lawyer for the former mayor, also jumped on the whole word interpretation bandwagon. In another text exchange from Ferbruary 18th 2004, this time a 3-way that included former Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller, Ferguson had texted Miller "I him with the boss."
The witness replied affirmatively when asked by Thomas is she took this to mean that Ferguson was with Kilpatrick. Thomas then used a Cyrano de Bergerac analogy to tell the EPA agent that she had incorrectly filled in the blanks on what was being said. Not only that, said Thomas, but it was impossible they were together as the text was sent at 1:28PM and Kilpatrick had a meeting at Gompers Elementary school between 1:30 and 2:30 p.a. that day.
Earlier on the day, Victor Mercado's lawyer Martin Crandall had used his cross-examination of the witness to illustrate that his client was a thoroughly professional individual whose work garnered glowing reviews and who was not in the inner mayoral circle, Kilpatrick's "Kitchen Cabinet."
Chutkow used his redirect of the witness shatter any impressions the jury might have had of Ferguson as an empowerer of fellow minority business owners.
The US attorney asked Paszkiewicz if in her investigation of Ferguson she had uncovered evidence of him actually hurting minority businesses. Yes she replied.
And among the minority business owners the government contends suffered because of preferential treatment given to Ferguson is one Tom Hardiman of A & H Contractors.
Hardiman is the next witness due to take the stand.
Court reconvenes at 9 a.m. Friday.
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