DETROIT (WXYZ) - Using words like “extortion” and “blackmail,” a government witness told the jury in the Kilpatrick corruption trial that the former mayor held up contracts unless his friend was part of the deal.
Bernard Parker III took the stand Wednesday. He’s the son of a Wayne County Commissioner – and by the sounds of it has worked at several of the companies and city departments that have come up during this trial.
And Parker said repeatedly on the stand that unless Bobby Ferguson was on their team, contracts and projects got stalled.
Parker told the jury in the Kilpatrick corruption case that when he was working for a sewer lining subcontractor – they could not get a $12 million amendment to a contract signed by the mayor until Bobby Ferguson got what he wanted.
Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Ferguson are on trial, accused of racketeering and bid rigging.
Parker testified that when he asked Kilpatrick why he had not signed the amendment – Kilpatrick told him to “talk to Bobby.” Ferguson Enterprises was a subcontractor on the deal with Inland Waters. Parker also said Ferguson wanted a bigger cut of the contract. Parker says his boss walked away feeling extorted and blackmailed – allegedly after Ferguson said the amendment “money wouldn’t move unless [they] came to some agreement.”
When the Judge allowed Parker to testify to what his boss said, Ferguson was clearly upset, and one of his attorneys was furious.
“We’re all frustrated because this isn’t the way it’s supposed to work. The person that makes the statement’s got to come in and testify to it, so they can be cross-examined. That’s the bottom line,” said Mike Rataj.
Parker later went to work for Walbridge Aldinger. The business development executive says when Walbridge tried to get a $75 million sewer outfalls contract – former Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller allegedly told him to put Ferguson on the deal. Parker said he thought that was inappropriate and illegal, but Walbridge added Ferguson to the team, fearing they’d lose the lucrative contract.
Parker also worked directly for Ferguson at one point, and recounted a time when Ferguson told him to go get $80,000 from one-time Lakeshore Engineering executive Thomas Hardiman. Parker told him to tell Hardiman: “He wasn’t going to get expletive-else from the city or DWSD,” if Lakeshore didn’t pay Ferguson.
Parker testified that several of his meetings with Ferguson were held outside in the yard of FEI headquarters, because Ferguson thought the FBI had bugged his office.
The defense has only just begun their cross examination, but Kilpatrick lawyer Jim Thomas suggested to the jury that the former mayor waited to sign the amendment until the day he knew he was staying in office after the 2005 mayoral recount.
“As you’ve seen in this case, you have direct and then you have cross. And you hope that the jury waits until they get done with the cross to see whether or not direct pans out,” said Thomas.
Meanwhile Ferguson lawyer Mike Rataj says the Judge isn’t playing fair when she helps federal prosecutors re-phrase their questions to the witnesses – and likened the trial to a hockey game where the feds are playing 5 on 3.
“For her to prop the government lawyers up every time they can’t ask a question properly, for the hearsay – the double and triple hearsay that’s coming in puts us at a huge disadvantage in this case. But it’s not going to stop us, we’re going to do what we have to do,” said Rataj.
Mr Parker will likely face some very vigorous cross examination on Thursday.
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