DETROIT (WXYZ) - A woman who says Kwame Kilpatrick was “like a son” to her had to testify against the former mayor in the Kilpatrick corruption case Thursday.
Emma Bell is the first of several witnesses who have taken plea deals with the feds in exchange for their cooperation in the case.
Emma Bell was at times rather feisty – and even had the jury laughing as she described casino slot machines to the prosecutor. But, she also appeared to be near tears several times and at one point, I think everyone was holding their breath because it wasn’t totally clear whether Emma Bell was going to tell the jury about those alleged cash kickbacks to Kwame Kilpatrick.
The tears on Emma Bell’s face say it all about how difficult it was for her to take the witness stand in the Kilpatrick corruption case.
Bell was once Kwame Kilpatrick’s fundraiser for his campaign fund, his inaugural committee fund, the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, and the former mayor’s legal defense fund.
Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, his long-time friend Bobby Ferguson, and former Detroit Water Department Director Victor Mercado are all on trial right now, accused of running a criminal enterprise out of city hall.
Bell told the jury “It’s not easy for me to even be here.”
Bell said she has known the entire Kilpatrick family since the early 1970’s, and she has been involved in Detroit politics for decades.
The feds allege Bell was required to give more than $200,000 in cash kickbacks from her fundraising commission checks to the former mayor.
Assistant U. S. Attorney Michael Bullotta asked Bell about a $100,000 check she got from the Kilpatrick for Mayor fund in 2003. Bell said when she saw the mayor after receiving that check, she said thank you. When Bullotta asked her what else the mayor said to her she paused so long, it seemed like she was going to stop her testimony.
Finally, she said, Kilpatrick asked her if she had something for him.
Bell told the jury she would meet Kilpatrick in the mayor’s private office on the 11th floor of the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center. When she got there, she said she would pull chunks of cash out of her bra or her handbag and give the money to Kilpatrick.
While Bell’s testimony was riveting, she has some credibility issues the jury will have to weigh.
Bell admitted she’s been behind on her taxes since Jimmy Carter was president, and that she’s testifying as part of a plea deal she made with the U. S. Attorneys in the hopes of getting less prison time for tax evasion.
Kilpatrick attorney Jim Thomas at times seemed to bring Bell to tears as he tried to argue that Bell was spending far too much at the slot machines at Greektown Casino to have any money left over to allegedly share. Thomas also got Bell to admit that Kilpatrick never said to her that he wanted half of her money.
Even though Thomas made it clear to the jury that Bell knows her freedom is on the line with her testimony for the government, she stayed the course. She said “I’m not lying. And I do know there’s only two people in this room, other than God, that know what happened, and that’s me and Mr. Kilpatrick.”
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