Exec. gave Kilpatrick money, plane rides for fear of losing city business

(WXYZ) - The head of a $2.5 Billion dollar business empire took the witness stand in the Kilpatrick corruption case Wednesday.

Tony Soave told the jury he gave Detroit's former mayor private plane rides and thousands of dollars in perks because he feared he would lose his city business.

"It's hard to turn the mayor down – I didn't want to get on the wrong side of him." That's why Soave says he gave Kwame Kilpatrick private jet flights that totaled more than $389,000.

Soave also told the jury in the Kilpatrick corruption case that he gave the former mayor $10,000 court-side basketball tickets, made $175,000 in donations to Kilpatrick's Civic Fund, and even paid for an expensive stay for the whole Kilpatrick family at the Ritz-Carlton in Naples, Florida.

Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, and his friend Bobby Ferguson are on trial, accused of running a criminal enterprise through extortion and racketeering.

"What did you think of Mr. Soave's testimony today," 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo asked Kilpatrick outside federal court. He did not answer the question.

When Kilpatrick first took office in 2002 – Soave owned Inland Waters, which had just been awarded a multi-million dollar water department sewer-lining contract.

When Soave met with Kilpatrick to find out why he wasn't singing the deal, Soave says, "He told me I had the wrong subcontractor."

When Soave asked who's the right one – Soave said he was told: Bobby Ferguson.

Soave said he brought Ferguson into the deal because a lot of his workers were depending on the job, but described Ferguson as "a real handful," telling the jury Ferguson would often threaten Inland by reminding them of his friendship with the mayor.

Soave says when Ferguson later wanted to go in 50/50 with Inland – Soave said Ferguson "could go EXPLETIVE himself – I'd rather not be partners with him."

As for all those pricey flights across the country -- you'll recall the 7 Action News investigators first exposed those back in 2008.

Soave now says he paid for the flights because he didn't want Kilpatrick holding up any more contracts that Soave needed to run his companies.

He will face cross-examination on Thursday.

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