7 Action News investigation takes center stage at Kilpatrick corruption trial

(WXYZ) - A 7 Action News Investigation took center stage in federal court Wednesday as the feds zero in on who paid for a ritzy vacation Detroit's former mayor took with his family.

Kwame Kilpatrick's former press secretary – who once used to grant interviews -- had no interest in talking to reporters after his testimony in the Kilpatrick corruption case Wednesday.

Matt Allen was called by the government to tell the jury about a trip that Kilpatrick took with his wife and children to the luxurious La Costa Spa in California.

Back in 2007, 7 Action News started asking about how the former mayor had paid for the La Costa trip. Allen testified that he met with Kilpatrick and former chief of staff Christine Beatty to get answer to our questions, and they told him to say Kilpatrick had used his personal credit card.

Assistant U. S. Attorney Michael Bullotta played this portion of our interview with Allen for the jury:

 "So the mayor personally paid for this personal trip," asked 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo in 2007.
For the family trip, the mayor paid for that trip," said Allen.

After 7 Action News revealed that an $8600 check from the Kilpatrick Civic Fund was written to the La Costa Spa, Allen said he felt like he got caught with his pants down, and that, "No one ever told me about the check."

The non-profit Civic Fund was supposed to operate for charitable and educational purposes, but the feds allege Kilpatrick used it for personal and political expenses.

The former Detroit mayor, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, former city contractor Bobby Ferguson, and ex-Water department director Victor Mercado are all on trial, accused of racketeering and conspiracy.

Federal prosecutors also showed the jury Civic Fund checks written for yoga lessons for Kilpatrick and his security detail.

First on the stand Wednesday, the owner of the Center for Yoga, who testified about $3900 in checks paid from the Civic Fund for yoga lessons.

Next up – yoga instructor Brian Granader, who told the jury he was hired to give Kilpatrick and members of his security team lessons at Cobo Hall and the Manoogian Mansion.

His testimony prompted several jokes in the courtroom about everyone in the case needing some yoga for relaxation.

But IRS Agent Ron Sauer wasn't laughing as he showed the jury more checks written from the Civic Fund.

Agent Sauer said checks from the fund were written to New York University and Tennessee State University for tuition for Kilpatrick's sister and cousin.

There were two Civic Fund checks written to a travel agent – one for more than $1100 for a trip former Kilpatrick chief of staff Christine Beatty took with her daughters to Los Angeles. The other was for more than $1000 for airline tickets for Bobby Ferguson and Bernard Kilpatrick from Detroit to New Orleans during the 2002 Super Bowl.

But the lawyers for Ferguson and Bernard Kilpatrick both asked the IRS agent if he had ever checked to see if the plane tickets were actually used, and he said he did not.

Text messages also suggested more checks from the Civic Fund were written for Kilpatrick relatives.

In 2002, Beatty texted Kilpatrick: "can we write Bone a ck for 2000 civic." Bone is a nickname for Kilpatrick's sister Ayanna. Kilpatrick responded: Yes

That same day, a civic fund check for $1500 was written to Ayanna.

Ayanna later texted Beatty, "I paged you yesterday re: the transfer of the loot."

Agent Sauer then showed the jury records for a stay at the Sonnenalp Resort in Vail, Colorado. He said it was a trip that Beatty and Kilpatrick took together, and showed receipts for spa treatments, including a gentleman's facial.

During cross examination, Kilpatrick's attorney Jim Thomas aggressively questioned Sauer about what the agent did to find out how much fundraising or business Kilpatrick may have been doing on those trips. Thomas asked if Agent Sauer realized that the National Council of Mayor's meeting was held during the Colorado trip – the agent said he wasn't aware of that meeting.

"The idea is to ask questions that talk about whether or not it's really truly clear, what the government is saying and whether or not there's any doubt," said Thomas.

Thomas also questioned Agent Sauer about a $5,000 check to the pre-school that the Kilpatrick children attended, but the check was written after the boys had graduated, and Thomas suggesting it was an educational donation, in line with the Civic Fund's mission.

"Now recognize that we don't have a burden in this case, to prove anything, but we certainly do have the right to ask questions, and cross examine the witnesses and so, we're trying to do that with an eye towards a fuller explanation of what it is that actually occurred," said Thomas.
 

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