DETROIT - The defense team in the Kwame Kilpatrick federal trial branded a government witnesses a liar and an opportunist who was out to do the government's job for them. Bernard Parker III testified Wednesday to several instances of extortion, threats and illegal conduct involving defendants Kwame Kilpatrick and Bobby Ferguson. Parker, President of BP3 & Associates, has held several positions within both the private sector and city government in Detroit. In his positions with contractors, Parker worked mostly as a business developer seeking out business opportunities through his contacts in city government for his employers.
The defense went on the offense before court session even began today by telling the media that Parker's testimony of third-party conversations constituted hearsay. Judge Nancy Edmunds defended her position in allowing the testimony by citing two specific cases which stated that such testimony was permitted when it went to establish a victim's state of mind and was not being offered as proof of truth.
State of mind is integral to the prosecution's assertion that the defendants, including Kilpatrick's father Bernard, established a climate of fear for city contractors during Kilpatrick's tenure as mayor of Detroit. Jim Thomas, the former mayor's defense lawyer, did not hold back on his opinion of the witness. Addressing a period in 2006 when Parker was seeking re-employment with Walbridge Aldinger, Thomas asked him if he knew that Walbridge CEO John Rakolta felt he had exaggerated his city contacts.
"Did you know that he (Rakolta) thought you were a bulls**t artist who oversold yourself?"
Thomas then pointed to instances of inconsistency in Parker's direct testimony.
In an October 30th 2012, Parker had met with federal agents and discussed a conversation with Kilpatrick at a Precinct Delegates' meeting. The witness testified yesterday that he when he approached the former mayor at an invite-only reception for Precinct Delegates to discuss why an amendment to Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) contract 1368 was not being approved, Kilpatrick told him to go speak to Ferguson about it. But in his interview, Parker told the agents that Kilpatrick told him he should get together with Dennis Oszust of contractors Inland Waters and Ferguson to hammer things out. Gerald Evelyn, one of Ferguson's lawyers, was next up to bat for the defense. And it didn't take him long to become irritated with Parker who has made a habit of giving testimony that goes beyond the scope of the questions addressed him. Parker was discussing a March 2007 email between two executives at an out-of-state company who were contemplating work in Detroit. The witness described one of the company officials as being "afraid of dealing with the city of Detroit" further adding "he didn't want to deal with Bobby." "Are you working that hard to help the government out?... I never asked you that", retorted an incensed Evelyn.
Evelyn then directed Parker to a January 6th 2005 email he wrote to executives at Insituform discussing a call he had had with "a high level appointee in the Kilpatrick administration". Parker was highly laudatory to himself in the email saying that the "appointee" had pointed out that Insituform work had increased dramatically because of contract 1368 that the witness had helped secure. There was also possibility of adding more work to the existing contract as well other new contracts. Evelyn asked Parker who the "appointee" was. It was Ferguson replied Parker. Ferguson never held any official position within the Kilpatrick administration.
Evelyn then asked the witness if he had lied to his bosses about the conversation with a Kilpatrick official or he was lying to the jury now. Parker responded that he lied to his bosses. He said Ferguson had told him to tell his bosses to re-assess their corporate citizenship or as Parker said the contractor put it, "M*****f***** you better think about what's going on."
There was also the question of Parker's jumpy employment record. Despite the various negative and confrontational experiences Parker testified to having with Ferguson between 2002 and 2007 when the witness worked for Walbridge Aldinger and Insituform, he agreed to work for Xcel Construction and Ferguson Enterprises for two years starting in 2007. So, Evelyn said, so after all this conduct with Ferguson you went to work with him? "I made a bad judgment, yes, " replied Parker. Not only that but even after Parker left Ferguson Enterprises he wanted to enlist Ferguson as his first client. He drew up an agreement whereby he would have served as a consultant to Ferguson for a bi-monthly rate of $2,500. The agreement was never enacted. U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow sought to redress the witness's testimony with his re-direct.
"Are you working for the government?" asked Chutkow
"No sir," replied the witness.
"Why are you here?"
"I was subpoenaed."
"Do you have anything to gain from being here?" asked Chutkow. Parker responded that he did not.
Chutkow then asked why Parker might have referred to Ferguson as a high-level Kilpatrick appointee.
The witness said he felt Ferguson had very high level of influence. "He was the mayor's best friend."
In reference to a series of concert, comedy show and sports' game tickets that Parker had requested from Walbridge for various Detroit city officials, Chutkow asked him if he had ever offered those same officials cash, flights, expensive suits and Cartier watches. The witness replied that he had not.
Finally, Chutkow addressed the witness's "bad judgment" in choosing to work for Ferguson.
"It has cost me both personally and professionally," said Parker.
And though he had already answered the prosecutor's question, he couldn't help but add one final little side note.
"I don't have an ax to grind with either Ferguson or Kilpatrick."
Court resumes Friday at 9AM.
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