DETROIT (WXYZ) - After years of investigation and preparation – the federal government will finally bring Detroit’s former mayor in front of a jury tomorrow.
The freedom of four people is on the line. And the former mayor, who once wielded so much power in Detroit, is now going to be at the mercy of a jury who will decide his fate.
We’ve heard the allegations for years: racketeering, corruption, “the Kilpatrick Enterprise” but what does it all really mean?
Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, his long-time friend Bobby Ferguson, and former Detroit Water Department Chief Victor Mercado are all charged with bribery, extortion, and running a criminal enterprise.
A team of four Assistant U. S. Attorney’s will tell the story of how Kilpatrick allegedly used his political office to line his pockets. FBI agents will show how the feds used wiretaps and hundreds of thousands of text messages between Kilpatrick and his co-defendants to bring the charges.
“Those are very sophisticated investigative techniques that involve a lot of authority levels that go back to Washington DC,” says Dan Roberts, a former Special Agent in Charge of the Detroit FBI office. He oversaw the Kilpatrick corruption investigation for a while – and says the agents on this case are the best of the best.
“They have many years of experience, they’ve been around a long time, the know Detroit, they know the Detroit culture, and they understand what it takes to put a case together,” Roberts told 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo.
The allegations in the 100-page indictment range from fairly simple “follow-the-money” tax fraud charges to the very complicated RICO crimes.
RICO stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act -- which is more often associated with mafia cases – rather than public corruption cases.
Legal experts tell me that by charging Kilpatrick under the RICO law, essentially, the government is trying to say that Kwame Kilpatrick ran an illegal gang inside city hall – and that there was a pattern of illegal activity that went on for years.
“The RICO charges are difficult to explain to a jury… The racketeering portion of it is more of a pattern of criminal activity that they’re involved in. It’s mostly the last portion of RICO, the corrupt organizations portion of the RICO – that shows the structure and form of the organization,” said Roberts.
Key to the case- the bid rigging allegations that Kilpatrick and Ferguson used the former mayor’s political power to score multi-million dollar contracts for Ferguson through extortion. But Ferguson’s legal team says you haven’t heard the whole story yet:
“The indictment is nothing but a piece of paper – they’ve got to have the evidence. We’re going to be able to show that there were reasonable and logical explanations as to why certain things happened with certain DWSD contracts,” said Ferguson attorney Michael Rataj.
The former mayor will find himself face to face with witnesses he once called friends, including former Chief Information Officer Derrick Miller. Miller was originally charged as part of Kilpatrick’s criminal enterprise – but cut a deal with the feds to testify against his former Cass Tech schoolmate.
This is how Kilpatrick described Miller when he first got into office:
“God puts people in your life that you really don’t know what they’re going to do ultimately, and how they’re going to relate to you in the greater scheme of things,” Kilpatrick said on January 2, 2002 during his first inauguration.
Now Miller’s testimony could help send Kilpatrick and the others to prison for decades. But the U. S. Attorney’s office in Detroit has suffered some set-backs in recent years, with mistrials in the recent Bobby Ferguson case, and losses in the Hutaree case.
Former special agent Roberts says that just means the feds will bring their A-game.
“What do you think is the mindset right now? I think the word would be confident. I think they’re probably very confident that they can secure a conviction in this case,” said Roberts.
The defense teams point out that the burden of proof is on the government, and several experienced attorneys stand ready to try to poke holes in the feds’ case.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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