DETROIT (WXYZ) - He was supposed to be a star witness for the government – to tell the story of huge bribes to Detroit’s former mayor.
And while Jon Rutherford certainly had some shocking testimony about how much cash changed hands, he wasn’t the most friendly witness.
Jon Rutherford was at times hostile and sarcastic with federal prosecutors as they questioned him Thursday.
Whether it was cold hard cash for swanky new suits or hefty donations to the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, Rutherford says he gave Kwame Kilpatrick and his father, Bernard, hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The businessman took the witness stand Thursday in the Kilpatrick Corruption Trial, but at times he was testy and sarcastic with the very prosecutors who cut a cooperation plea deal with the convicted felon.
Rutherford told the jury about his efforts to buy access and influence with Kilpatrick, dating all the way back to the former mayor’s days as a state representative in Lansing. In all, Rutherford’s various payments to Kilpatrick, and his father’s Maestro and Associates, and other campaign and non-profit funds totaled more than $440,000.
Assistant U. S. Attorney Mark Chutkow showed the jury at least $50,000 in checks written to Kilpatrick’s non-profit Civic Fund – an organization that wasn’t supposed to be used for individual political candidates. Rutherford said there was, quote, “an understanding between Kwame Kilpatrick and myself this would be used for his campaign for mayor of Detroit.”
Rutherford testified that he bought $1,200 Las Vegas prize fight tickets for Kwame and Bernard, and that just before the ex-mayor was going to travel to Dubai, he asked Rutherford for $10,000 in cash for buy new suits.
Rutherford also said he took Kilpatrick’s family to dinner in Vegas one time, and slipped the former mayor a few thousand in cash “because he asked for it.”
The feds alleged Rutherford was bribing the former mayor so Kilpatrick would back Rutherford’s plans for a riverfront casino development.
But when Rutherford was asked, “Did Mayor Kilpatrick tell you he would do anything for you?” he said “No, he liked the project. He would have backed it anyway.”
Even though legal experts say Rutherford did not appear to describe an actual quid pro quo, Kilpatrick’s lawyer isn’t commenting on the testimony.
“I think at this point, we’ll wait until tomorrow to talk about the witness,” said Jim Thomas.
Defense lawyers still have to cross examine Rutherford on Friday.
They will likely bring up Rutherford’s plea deal for tax evasion.
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