DETROIT (WXYZ) - If you’re wondering why Kwame Kilpatrick’s been smiling lately, it may well because of his friend Bobby Ferguson. He's already gone to war with the feds, and he’s still standing. Kilpatrick’s hoping to pull off the same feat.
The duo have been friends for more than a decade, and starting Thursday, they’ll be braving the feds together.
For Bobby Ferguson, courtrooms are nothing new. When he was a teenager, he was charged for beating a man in the head with a baseball bat outside a sports bar. DUI and firearm charges litter his lengthy wrap sheet. By the time he was 35, Ferguson had been arrested 12 times.
Despite his lengthy wrap sheet, Ferguson's lawyers insist he's a "good Christian man" devoted to his family.
Right from the start of his administration, the new mayor was tapping Ferguson to help demolish more than 5,000 Detroit homes.
"Our transition team worked very diligently, led by Bobby Ferguson and Frank Torre," Kilpatrick said at his inauguration in January 2002.
The feds say Ferguson had unprecedented access to the mayor’s office. Even so, in this 2006 deposition, Ferguson was cagey when asked if he and Kilpatrick were friends, dodging even his own lawyer’s question.
"If you can just answer yes or no if you and the mayor are friends," said his attorney.
Ferguson sat in silence before finally saying, "I know the mayor."
He cleaned up on city contracts under Kilpatrick, and text messages show that he, the mayor and their friend chief of Staff Christine Beatty strategized on how to get Ferguson more.
"Why not Bobby in this?” Beatty asked Kilpatrick.
"Bobby wanted to strategically lose a major bid,” he responded.
City contractors complained that the fix was in at city hall.
"It was the hottest rumor going, but it was very difficult to pinpoint," said Darci McConnell, then a reporter for The Detroit News.
It was difficult to pinpoint because contractors were afraid to speak publicly. One called 7 Action News in 2005, saying he’d been awarded excavation work in the city, but at the last minute got a call telling him to leave the site. He was told that Bobby Ferguson was going to do the job instead. He was afraid to go on the record.
The feds first crack at Ferguson ended in a mistrial because of one holdout juror. Ferguson walked away from facing up to a decade behind bars on bid-rigging charges. But he wasn’t so lucky years earlier. He pled guilty in 2005 to pistol-whipping one of his employees.
Today’s federal charges carry a much longer sentence this time around, and Ferguson’s swinging at the feds with more than a baseball bat. He’s hired three high-powered criminal lawyers, looking to make his record against the feds a perfect two for two.
"At end of the day, we’re confident we’re going to be able to defend against those allegations and that our client is going to be found not guilty," said Michael Rataj, one of Ferguson's three attorneys.
But if there’s anyone he hates more than the feds, it’s still the media. When we were shooting video outside his office for this story, Ferguson stopped by, demanding to know why we were there. He left without saying more than a few words, but he had confidence to spare. Before leaving, he gave me a tap on the cheek, laughed and walked away.
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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