DETROIT – The defense in the Kwame Kilpatrick federal corruption trial alleged Friday that after defendant Bernard Kilpatrick worked to secure a city of Detroit contract worth more than $1.1 billion, he was victimized- lied to, manipulated and ultimately unjustly cut out of financial compensation he had rightfully earned.
Government witness James Rosendall Jr, a former executive with Houston-based Synagro Technologies, testified yesterday to making lavish gifts and cash payments to Kilpatrick out of fear that otherwise the deal would be blown up. Read: James Rosendall Jr. testifies he bribed former Detroit mayor. In 2009, Rosendall pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery. He served 11 months and paid a $250,000 fine. The witness still has another year on supervised release. John Shea, Kilpatrick's defense lawyer, made a strong argument today that the witness lied and manipulated not just Kilpatrick but his own bosses at Synagro Technologies. The city contract itself involved turning sewage into a glass aggregate and stood to make Synagro $47 million annually. Rosendall agreed with Shea that he had strong financial incentive to make sure the lucrative Detroit deal happened. The witness testified that over a 25 year period, he stood to gain millions from a compensation package and the sale of a piece of property to house a facility for the sewage project.
Shea also argued that Rosendall had good cause to hire Kilpatrick because Synagro needed someone to help them address community concerns about the project. The defense lawyer pushed the witness to recall if in fact it wasn't former Kwame Kilpatrick confidant turned government star witness Derrick Miller who recommended that Rosendall hire Kilpatrick to help with those concerns. Rosendall testified that he recalled discussing community outreach with Miller but nothing about hiring Kilpatrick. In his direct testimony yesterday, Rosendall had said that they already had a Lansing-based consulting firm working for them at the time. But, argued Shea, wasn't it better to hire someone intimately experienced with the political landscape of Wayne County and Detroit.
"I don't know about experience but I know he was connected," replied Rosendall not so obliquely referring to Kilpatrick's relationship to his son the former Detroit mayor. Shea also introduced text messages that proved that Kilpatrick worked to help set a meeting with former Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) director Victor Mercado in 2004. Meeting Mercado would definitely have been important to securing the contract with the DWSD. In a February 18th 2004 text exchange between former Kilpatrick aide Michael Tardif and Bernard Kilpatrick, Tardif texts: "Cool...hey jr wondering if you could set up a meeting with Victor early next week." "JR" is a reference to James Rosendall. Bernard replies: "I am working on that now." Rosendall agreed with Shea that Synagro had a problem with Kilpatrick, aka "BK", being too close to the mayor and that was why they ultimately agreed to hire on Detroit businessman Rayford Jackson. Rosendall also agreed that even after Jackson was hired on, he understood that Bernard maintained a financial agreement with the deal to split the total $7 to $8 million expected compensation 50/50. Rosendall confirmed that he would travel from his home in Grand Rapids to Detroit on a weekly basis and frequently scheduled business lunch meetings. Shea produced no less than 9 receipts submitted on Rosendall's Synagro expense account for lunches in Detroit in the period between June 8th 2005 and May 9th 2006.
All 9 lunches involved Bernard Kilpatrick and 6 included Rayford Jackson as well. Jackson and Kilpatrick, however, fell out when talk arose of a modification to their agreement. Up to that point, the men maintained a "man-to-man" verbal agreement. In the summer of 2007, Rosendall, Jackson, Kilpatrick and Kilpatrick's girlfriend Akunna Olumba met to discuss modifying the agreement to include Olumba. One reason proposed, said Shea, was to have Olumba participate in minority solicitation. But the other, much more important reason, was to protect Kilpatrick's interest with Jackson by having it flow through Olumba. And that way too, Kilpatrick could still keep from being officially named in the agreement. But Jackson made clear he was not interested in any such modifications. And so, said Shea, that is when the witness decided to manipulate Kilpatrick. In the first of numerous telephone recordings produced by Shea, an October 2007 telephone conversation, Rosendall tells Jackson about Kilpatrick: "I'll play that thing out and string him along." He further adds, "He's not going to be able to stop that man from signing the deal." "That man" being former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Stall tactics with Bernard on the agreement were the subject of several more conversations between Jackson and Rosendall. On December 20th 2007, Rosendall called Jackson to discuss the angry voice message Kilpatrick had left him to call him back "vacation or no motherf%^&ing". In the recording, Rosendall proposes telling Kilpatrick that he went to Philadelphia the day before to meet Synagro's CEO to discuss the agreement. Jackson then says that Rosendall should also tell Kilpatrick that one of the reasons he can't do anything with the agreement is that Jackson is under investigation and the agreement is with General Counsel. "That was a lie," said Shea. Yes said Rosendall. And the lies just kept coming.
In a telephone recording from later that same day, Rosendall is heard telling Kilpatrick, huffing and puffing on a treadmill, exactly the story concocted with Jackson. He also lets Kilpatrick know that, over the last 6 months, Jackson has already received $230,000 in compensation and that is part of the reason Synagro is holding up the "signing fees" for the approval of the contract by City Council and mayor Kilpatrick in November 2007.
So that's more lies about why the agreement isn't going forward asked Shea. Yes conceded the witness. In that same recording, Rosendall arranges to meet Kilpatrick in the parking lot outside his offices. Yesterday, Rosendall testified that they met in the parking lot because Kilpatrick was afraid that his office was being bugged. "In fact it was your suggestion to meet outside," asked Shea. Again, yes replied Rosendall. Shea claimed that at this time Bernard was broke and needed this money. Rosendall agreed that he encouraged Bernard's belief that he would get his half of the signing bonus by Christmas.
But, in fact, he did nothing to make it happen. Still on December 20th 2007, Rosendall is overheard telling other Synagro executive Pamela Racey that Jackson, Olumba and Kilpatrick have had a falling out and that Jackson is cutting them out financially. "There's a little pissing contest going on between them," Rosendall tells his boss. Shea then proceeded to enumerate the lies told by Rosendall: that he had met with Olumba when he hadn't, his saying that he knew nothing of the agreement with Kilpatrick and Olumba and that it was the first he had heard of Jackson cutting them out. When Racey tells Rosendall that Jackson needs to honor his obligations to Kilpatrick, he agrees that Jackson is wrong to cut them out. "Morally it's not right," Rosendall concurs. Two weeks later, on January 2nd 2008, Racey tells Rosendall in another recorded conversation that she is going to tell Jackson that "these folks brought you to the table" and that he will have to take care of Kilpatrick and Olumba. But possibly the most compelling argument brought forth by Shea today was the justification for cash payments to Bernard totaling $5,000.
Earlier in direct testimony, jurors saw a video from March 5th 2008 that showed Rosendall and Kilpatrick outside Bernard's condominium complex. At this point, the witness had begun cooperating with the FBI in their investigation. Rosendall testified that after leaving Kilpatrick, he went to his bank and got $2,500 out of his account. Then he called Bernard that same day, to meet with him again. More wired video showed Kilpatrick taking the "25" that Rosendall had for him. Then on April 14, 2008, Bernard and Rosendall met at a pancake restaurant in Southfield. Rosendall testified he gave Bernard $2,500 that came from the FBI. The FBI also reimbursed the witness for the earlier $2,500. Shea then played a December 20th 2007 recorded telephone conversation where Rosendall is overheard telling Kilpatrick that "everyone is one board to resolve" the agreement conflict and the Synagro CEO will be calling Jackson. "At the end of the day he never would have been involved without you," Rosendall assuages Kilpatrick. Freshly arrived to his Florida vacation destination later, Rosendall calls Kilpatrick and tells him he has just spoken with Olumba and that she is going to send him an invoice."So you guys are all straight," Rosendall tells Kilpatrick on the recording.
Shea then re-introduced a government exhibit of an invoice from Black Onyx, Olumba's company, from December 21st 2007 for $5,000. The defense lawyer stated that this was the invoice Olumba submitted in response to the telephone conversation with Rosendall.Despite the promises, Shea then said that $5,000 did not get paid before Christmas or even right after Christmas either. No agreed Rosendall. As part of Rosendall's direct testimony, the government had produced a recorded meeting at the Southern Fires restaurant on January 29th 2008. Rosendall testified that Kilpatrick declined the $2,500 in cash he attempted to hand him. Shea highlighted the portion of the transcript where Kilpatrick makes clear he doesn't want cash.
"Yeah I thought that you was bringing a check. That we talked about in December..." says Bernard.So as a result, concluded Shea says, the $5,000 invoice was still outstanding and nothing was paid on it until March 5th 2008 with the last payment was on April 14th 2008."Yes," agreed Rosendall yet again.
There will be no court on Monday due to the Martin Luther King Day holiday. Court resumes next Tuesday at 9AM.