DETROIT (WXYZ) - A Wayne County Circuit Court Judge ordered that an escrow account be set up to collect all profits from Kwame Kilpatrick’s upcoming book until the former mayor’s restitution is paid. Wayne County Assistant Prosecutors revealed in court Wednesday that some money has already been made on Kilpatrick’s soon-to-be released memoir, “Surrendered.”
Wearing jeans and a short-sleeved button down shirt, Detroit’s former mayor faced Judge David Groner. At issue in the hearing – whether profits from Kilpatrick’s tell-all book would be forfeited to pay off the remaining $860,000 in restitution Kilpatrick still owes Detroit.
In court, Assistant Prosecutor Robert Spada told the judge that a company owned by Kwame Kilpatrick’s sister, Ayanna, signed the book deal one day before the former mayor was sent to prison in May 2010.
“We have a contract between Ayanna Kilpatrick’s company, and the publisher, and we don’t know where Mr. Kilpatrick figures in there, and where all the profits are going,” said Spada.
Prosecutors then questioned the man named on the book’s cover as a co-author, Khary Turner. Turner’s wife is one of Kwame Kilpatrick’s cousins. Turner testified he hasn’t been paid yet, and he’s still negotiating his contract with Ayanna Kilpatrick’s company, AKtion Enterprises, LLC.
“My understanding is, she [Ayanna] has assumed control of Mr. Kilpatrick’s rights, so in our deal, she is presenting herself as an acting co-author. That’s part of what’s still being negotiated,” said Turner.
Under the Michigan Crime Victim’s Rights Act, someone convicted of a crime cannot profit from the crime until victims are compensated. Kilpatrick attorneys Daniel Hajji and Kevin McCallister tried to argue that the law at issue is unconstitutional. But at times, that only seemed to anger the judge.
“You’re not helping his case – you’re not answering the question -- that’s the problem. You’re making things worse, now I’m more confused than ever,” said Judge Groner.
In the end, Judge Groner ruled that an escrow account must be set up to collect book profits, so Kilpatrick’s restitution can be paid to the city of Detroit.
The judge also said he would sign an order to set up an escrow account for the Michigan Department of Corrections, because the state can go after Kilpatrick to re-pay the cost of his incarceration.
Investigative Reporter Ross Jones was blogging live in the courtroom during the proceedings. Read his blog updates below.
Kilpatrick's message for the press
Before returning to state custody, Kwame Kilpatrick turned to the media and made one last point. "I say it all the time. I want to pay my restitution," he said.
Groner rules, won't call Kilpatrick to testify
Judge David Groner won't allow Kwame Kilpatrick to be called to testify by the prosecutor's office.
Groner ruled that Kilpatrick can profit from his book, but only after he pays his restitution to the City of Detroit. He denied the prosecutor's request for a temporary restraining order, saying that having the proceeds placed in an escrow account is suitable.
And with that, today's hearing is over.
Kilpatrick's co-author testifies
The co-author of Kwame Kilpatrick's book is currently testifying. Khary Turner used to write for the media publication Metro Times, and his wife is Kilpatrick's cousin.
Turner said he has not received money through the publishing company, though he expects to profit from the book, and that he is still negotiating a contract for himself with Action Enterprises, which is owned by Kilpatrick's sister. The book project has been underway for "a couple of years," said Turner.
Under questioning from the Wayne County prosecutor's office, Turner acknowledged that the 284 page book has already been written and is due out August 1. The idea to write the book was his, and not Kilpatrick's, he testified.
Kilpatrick's lawyers say contracts shouldn't be public
Kilpatrick's lawyers are arguing that contracts related to his book deal should not be released in open court.
And so far, Groner has agreed, issuing a protective order that essentially conseals the contract from public view. He said that he may change his mind later on, and ultimately release the documents from the protective order.
Meanwhile, Groner and attorney McCallister continue to tussle, with McCallister frequently interrupting the judge and stepping on his words.
Judge suggests Kilpatrick will testify, family members upset.
It appears Kwame Kilpatrick will testify during today's hearing. Court is now in recess, but before leaving the bench Judge Groner said calling the former mayor to testify may be the only way to determine what he knows about the contract and his book deal.
The news wasn't well-received by Kilpatrick's family.
"This judge is a (expletive) joke," said Kilpatrick brother-in-law Daniel Ferguson.
Kilpatrick lawyers under fire, Groner frustrated
Things aren't going well for Kilpatrick's legal duo. Attorneys Hajji and McCallister said they did not meet with Kilpatrick about complying with the prosecution's subpoena until this afternoon.
"I can't imagine that you didn't tackle this issue, which is such an important case to the prosecution," said Groner.
"I find that to be incredible," he said.
McCallister said Kilpatrick doesn't have access to any contracts, because "you guys threw him in jail."
"What are you talking about," Groner said in frustration.
"Why did I think this would be a half-hour hearing?" Groner asked.
"Was I delusional or what," he said.
Groner said he will allow Kilpatrick 15 minutes to confer with his lawyers and review the contract for his book, which apparently he has not seen.
A corporation owned by Kilpatrick's sister Ayanna entered into a contract for Kilpatrick's current book deal, said assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Spada.
The corporation, known as Action, LLC , entered into a contract with a book published on May 23, 2010, says Spada. Kilpatrick was incarcerated within 48 hours for probation violations.
"We don't know where Mr. Kilpatrick fits in here, and where the profits are going," said Spada.
The Prosecutor's office says it has received at least some of the records they subpoenaed from Kilpatrick, but they don't show how or if Kilpatrick will benefit from the book's profits.
Hajji and Groner have sparred over Groner's direct questions about whether Kilpatrick has complied with the prosecutor's subpoena.
Groner has suggested he may call Kilpatrick to testify in today's hearing.
Judge tells Kilpatrick lawyer to "have a seat"
Despite the pleadings of Kilpatrick attorney Kevin McCallister, Judge David Groner will not hear his arguments that today's hearing is inappropriate, at least not today.
"You're not going to tell me how to make rulings," Groner barked at McCallister, who continued to argue that Groner should hear his motion before proceeding with today's hearing.
"Have a seat," he said.
Kilpatrick's lawyers object to hearing
It didn't take long for us to hit our first road block.
Kilpatrick's attorney, Daniel Hajji of Farmington Hills, wants Judge David Groner to rule on his emergency motion that he filed Monday, saying essentially that today's hearing is unnecessary, if not unconstitutional. In the motion, Hajji argued that his client is entitled to benefit from his book. Assistant Prosecutor Athina Siringas says that Kilpatrick's first obligation is to the city, to whom he owes almost $900,000, and that it would violate state law for Kilpatrick to benefit financially from his crimes.
"It denies him an entire line of work," says attorney Kevin McCallister, who also represents Kilpatrick.
In addition to preventing Kilpatrick from writing a book, McCallister says the prosecution's motion would prevent him from becoming a motivational speaker and appearing on talk shows.
Kilpatrick in court, about 20 minutes late.
Kilpatrick has entered the courtroom, and we're underway. Kilpatrick's face is noticeably thinner, and the normally well-dressed former mayor chose to go a bit more casual this afternoon with his attire: a short sleeve button-down, unbuttoned on the top.
"Make room for his family," says a court officer.
Maybe they'll come earlier next time.
A score of Third Circuit Court interns had to be unseated to make room for nine members of Kwame Kilpatrick's family who weren't able to find a place to sit. They're now seated, and several of them are wearing white t-shirts with Kwame Kilpatrick's face on the front, and a rather ironic quote from the bible on the back.
"And you shall know the truth...and the truth shall make you free," reads the passage from John 8:32.
Book's co-author enters court
Khary Turner, the co-author of Kilpatrick's upcoming book "Surrendered: The Rise, Fall and Revelations of Kwame Kilpatrick," entered the courtroom minutes ago. We've still not seen the former mayor, who typically dreads these hearings but may actually be looking forward to this one. It allows him the chance to get out of the office, so to speak. And since last May, his office has been a Michigan prison cell.
Kwame Kilpatrick is expected to appear any minute here at Judge David Groner's courtroom, which has become something of a second home for the former mayor through the years. Kilpatrick has appeared inside Groner's court scores of times over various and sundry restitution issues (his most recent put him in state prison), and today is no different. He and others are expected to testify about the proceeds for his upcoming book. The Wayne County Prosecutor's office requested today's hearing, as Kilpatrick still owes the city of Detroit more than $860,000 in restitution, and Prosecutor Kym Worthy wants to make sure the city gets its cut from the book before Kilpatrick.
Groner's court, as usual, is packed. It's filled mostly with media and court employees, but also Kilpatrick supporters and extended family members, some of whom--like Kilpatrick's brother-in-law Daniel Fergsuon--showed up too late, and haven't been able to find a seat.
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