Kwame Kilpatrick trial: Week 1 highlights

Headline Goes Here Sketch by Jerry Lemenu


6 witnesses testified on the first day of witness testimony. The witnesses were IRS agent Ronald Sauer, Jerome Robinson and J. Diane Dixon, both employees of First Independence Bank and three former members of the Kilpatrick's Executive Protection Unit- Jefferson Travis, Dwayne Love and Chad Smith. 

Under government questioning, IRS agent Sauer said that his investigation into former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's finances uncovered $531,401.72 total cash payments not covered by salary. Bank employees Robinson and Dixon testified that Kilpatrick or members of his security detail would make cash payments towards his credit card and personal loan.

Some of the most interesting testimony, however, came from former Kilpatrick EPU members Travis, Love and Smith. Their testimony revealed that Kilpatrick had used businessman Tony Soave's private jet for a "Thank you" trip to Bermuda and a one day Christmas shopping trip to NYC with some of his inner circle. The protection unit officers also testified to running personal errands for the former Detroit mayor, including one that involved taking $1,500 from a shoe in his former home to make a bank payment.

There was also the issue of there having been sweeps for listening devices during Kilpatrick's administration. While the officer conceded there had been some during Kwame Kilpatrick's tenure, he acknowledged there had never been any in his 5 years with the EPU unit under Mayor Archer.


Mahlon Clift, a jeweler to celebrities and long-time friend of former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, testified to stuffing $90,000 in his gym shorts and camouflage pants as he traveled through airport metal detectors. Once back in Chicago, Clift testified that he stuck the money in a vacuum cleaner.

Under government questioning, Clift revealed that he received $90,000 from Bobby Ferguson in a Detroit hotel room which he then proceeded to deliver to the former mayor in 2 drops- the first for $50,000 in Dallas and the second for the remaining $40,000 in Detroit.

Mike Rataj, a defense lawyer for Bobby Ferguson, indicated that Clift traveling through the airport "with a huge bulge in his pants" strained incredulity. He also got the witness to admit that Ferguson and Kilpatrick never explicitly told him what to do with the money.

None of the jurors took notes today and one female juror actually fell asleep during Rataj's cross-examination.

Officer Michael Fountain was the second and last witness called to testify.

Fountain testified that after citing Bobby Ferguson with environmental violations, he witnessed trash and debris being removed from Ferguson's business property and dumped onto city land in 2001. He also testified that he was intimidated by Ferguson into canceling his violation tickets after Ferguson, accompanied by 2 EPU officers, threatened Fountain's family.

Kilpatrick and Ferguson passed notes as they listened to the witnesses testify.


Court in recess in observance of Yom Kippur.


Three witnesses testified this to the potential misuse of state funds on two grants requested in 2000 by then Michigan state representative Kwame Kilpatrick.

Dan DeGrow, former Michigan state senator and majority leader for the Republican Party, and Mary Lannoye, former State Budget Director, were both asked to stretch their memories back 12 years to their time interacting with a young Kwame Kilpatrick when he was minority floor leader for the Michigan Democratic Party.

Both witnesses were questioned about the funding of 2 grants requested by Mr. Kilpatrick- one for the Detroit 3 Dimensional Community Development Corporation and the other for Vanguard Community Development Corporation.

Several hundreds of thousands, close to half a million, were granted to the organizations.

During DeGrow's testimony on how Mr. Kilpatrick made pitches for funding of the grants for the 2 Detroit organizations, jurors heard that some of that money may have gone towards the refurbishment of contractor Bobby Ferguson's offices.

Lannoye, visibly irritated when cross-examined by Kwame defense lawyer Jim Thomas, revealed that she was angry when she found out Kwame's wife Carlita Kilpatrick's conflict resolution organization U.N.I.T.E. had received some of the grant money.

Jurors were on the edge of their seats as they listened to witness Donna Williams, former Executive Director at Vanguard, testify how Carlita Kilpatrick was paid $37,500- half of an invoiced $75,000- for services ultimately not rendered. Upon returning from her honeymoon in 2000, Williams was informed by now Bishop Edgar Vann of the Second Ebenezer Church that they would be employing Carlita's U.N.I.T.E. Though she liked Carlita as a person, Williams felt she fell short on performing services promised.

Williams also told how an angry Kwame called to tell her she had "messed up" in submitting Carlita's invoice to the State Budget Office. The Budget Office initially cancelled a second installment of $150,000 to Vanguard for alleged misuse of funds. The funding was then re-instated but with the stipulation that there would be no more architect and U.N.I.T.E fees.


Lisa Shoemaker with the State Budget Office testified today how a second installment of $250,000 in grant funds was cancelled when it was determined that Detroit 3 D's first installment had exceeded the purview of the initial grant agreement.

The State Budget Office took particular issue with 2 points- the first was the purchase of a multi-unit dwelling and the second a lack of supporting documentation for the more than $249,000 in expenditures.

The court heard how $100,000 of the initial amount was paid out to Carlita Kilpatrick's U.N.I.T.E organization for peer mediation and conflict resolution services.

Other costs included $79,246 to establish a skill training area. Court exhibits included a check to Detroit Interiors for $37,000 as well as a subcontract between Detroit 3D and Detroit Interiors that indicated a total of $71,500 to "provide floor prep for installation of floor tables" and "work station partitions".

Calling it the most difficult correspondence she had ever encountered, Shoemaker testified that the SBO struggled to get Detroit 3D to provide a requested purchase agreement for the dwelling, information on renovation costs, all sources of financing if there was money additional to the grant funds and what services would be provided to the seniors and youths.

Detroit 3D initial grant agreement had stated that its intent was to improve quality of life for seniors and youth in part by providing housing for displaced seniors and runaway youth.

After some certified mail was returned to the SBO indicating that 3D had moved and "left no address", Shoemaker tracked them down to an address 14365 Wyoming, also the location of co-defendant Bobby Ferguson's business.

Susan Van Dusen, one of Ferguson's defense lawyers, tried to get Shoemaker to admit under cross-examination that perhaps she had misunderstood the invoices.

Shoemaker told the court the SBO didn't seek restitution of initial grant funds to get conclusion on the matter. Her recommendation was that it would be protracted process to get the money back and in order to minimize further exposure, it was best to let it go.

Van Dusen asked "Isn't it safe to say that if you thought there was some wrongdoing, you would have sought the money?"

"We didn't know what we had," answered Shoemaker.

Witness testimony continues Monday morning.


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