BLOG: Feds say defendants ran "Kilpatrick, Inc." out of mayor's office; bullied those in their way

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Follow along with closing arguments in the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial as 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones blogs from federal court:

2:20--The end: That's all for today.  Starting tomorrow at 9AM, my colleague Jim Kiertzner will be filling-in on blog duty when Kilpatrick lawyer Jim Thomas makes his closing argument.  After lunchtime, we'll hear from Bernard Kilpatrick's lawyer John Shea.

Thanks so much for following along. 

2:17--Greed: Making his final pitch, Bullotta spoke succinctly and directly at the jurors.

"You might wonder how Kwame Kilpatrick thought he would get away with this corruption," he said.

"I would submit that the evidence shows he thought the rules do not apply to him, that he was somehow above the law."

Bullotta looked the jurors in the eye as he delivered his final remark. 

"Find them guilty of every single count in this indictment," he said.

"Thank you."

2:15--Winding down: Bullota asks the jurors: "If Kwame Kilpatrick was not part of a conspiracy with Bobby Ferguson and Bernard Kilpatrick, could they have ever extorted a single person?"

2:10--Consultant? Bullotta says that Bernard Kilpatrick's lawyer John Shea would like jurors to believe that his client was just a consultant on city deals, and nothing more.

But, says Bullotta, what kind of a consultant frisks his clients for recording devices?  Would a consultant demand that he be paid without any witnesses nearby, or insist on having conversations in the parking lot?  Would a consultant, he asks, accept $300 stuffed in a gum wrapper, or costly Cristal champage from his client?  

"Bernard Kilpatrick was no consultant," Bullotta said.

"He was an extorter."

2:07--Synagro: In a sign that his closing argument is winding down, Bullotta is now discussing the Synagro contract. He reminded jurors how Synagro executive James Rosendall testified that he was introduced to Bernard Kilpatrick by the Mayor in the basement of the Manoogian Mansion.

"This is the man I want you to work with," Rosendall says he was told by the Mayor.

2:02--Cobo cash: And don't forget Karl Kado, Bullota says.  He testified that he paid Kwame Kilpatrick, Derrick Miller and Bernard Kilpatrick (the mayor's dad) tens of thousands of dollars to keep his city contracts.

One text message shows Bernard Kilpatrick's power in the administration, Bullotta said.

"You have to call Lou and give O.K. for Karl to deal with the electrical in June," Bernard Kilpatrick texted to Derrick Miller.

How could Bernard Kilpatrick--who's just a consultant to businesses--be giving orders to the mayor's right-hand man, asks Bullotta. 

2:00--Derrick Miller: Now we're getting to Derrick Miller.  He reminded jurors that Miller testified to sharing bribes from another contractor with Kilpatrick.

In another instance, Miller testified that Kilpatrick asked him to get some cash from the developer of a Chinese food restaurant in Detroit.

"See if you can get some cash from your Asian Village guys," Kilpatrick allegedly told Miller.

Miller said he gave Kilpatrick $10,000 cash in the restaurant bathroom.

1:55--A bully: One of the first witnesses in this trial was Michael Fountain, an environmental officer with the Detroit Police Department who said that after he wrote Bobby Ferguson up for violations, he said Ferguson intimidated him in court, flanked with two of Kilpatrick's bodyguards.

"We know you live in the city, and we know you have kids," Ferguson allegedly told Fountain.

Bullotta knows that it's hard to get folks to remember testimony, but important to get them to remember how they felt when they heard it.

1:48--Another contractor: Ticking off stories of contractors like they're on a shopping list, Bullotta is reminding jurors of the quantity of similar testimony they heard about Ferguson and Kilpatrick.

Johnson Akinwusi, a Detroit contractor, said that after paying $10,000 for Kilpatrick's suits on layaway at at trendy tailor, he landed a $7 million city job. He hired Bobby Ferguson, too.

"If I didn't pay Bobby, the job would not go," Akinwusi said.

1:44--"Walbridge Caved": Earlier in trial, jurors heard testimony that major Detroit construction company Walbridge Aldinger missed out on a big city contract.  When officials met with Kilpatrick's aide Derrick Miller to find out why, they said they were told to hire Bobby Ferguson.

Bullotta reminded jurors of a handwritten agreement between Walbridge and Ferguson, outlining that if Walbridge got the job from the city, it would hire Ferguson as a subcontractor.

Walbridge got the job, and hired Ferguson.

1:39--Memorable line: Kathleen McCann, a vice-president of Soave Enterprises, said working with Ferguson was like "a forced marriage."  She said felt she like she was "breathing...air that was thick with threats" when she met with Ferguson, who she described as a bully.

She also took notes at all of their meetings.

"We felt we would be telling this story," she said.

1:38--Soave: Maybe no witness gave more colorful, memorable testimony that Inland Waters CEO Tony Soave.  He recalled how, after a major sewer contract was apparently held up by Kilpatrick, he arranged for a meeting with him.  When he asked Kilpatrick why the contract wasn't going anywhere, he says Kilpatrick didn't miss a beat:

"You have the wrong subcontractor," Soave says he was told.

The right one, he said he was told, was Bobby Ferguson.

1:37--We're back: Bullotta is still going.  Probably has an hour left of closing, I would say.

1:20--Short break: We're going to take a short ten minute break, as Bullotta is halfway through his closing.  Now that I've got a minute to breath, I can tell you that the Detroit FBI is well represented in the front row of the courtroom.  Special Agent in Charge Robert Foley is seated right behind Kilpatrick and crew, as are several of his top agents. 

1:15--Bid-rigging: After Bobby Ferguson placed fifth in a major city bid, Bullotta says that "Kilpatrick, Inc." orchestrated a major bid-rigging scheme that changed how bids were scored, which allowed one of Ferguson's bids to jump up to second place--just good enough to get in on the job.

But it didn't end there, Bullotta says.  Ferguson's other bid, which was rated third, was just out of contention for city work, so Kilpatrick revoked the license of a Ferguson competitor.  As a result, Ferguson's other bid jumped up, and he got the job. 

Ferguson's bid was $1.6 million more than the next lowest, Bullotta says, meaning that his and Kilpatrick's greed cost taxpayers big.

1:09--Signature move: Avinash Rachmale of Lakeshore Engineering testified months ago, saying he paid Bobby Ferguson more than a million dollars for doing no work because he was afraid his city contracts would be canceled.  They had two others which already were. 

"We did not want any of our contracts stopped for unfair reasons," Rachmale said at the time.

Bullotta said that Rachmale's fears of Kilpatrick and Ferguson amount to extortion.

"That crime is illegal, and that crime is the signature move of Kilpatrick Incorporated," Bullotta said.

1:03--Damaging texts: Bullotta is trying to drive-home to jurors that Kilpatrick and Ferguson were a team, and showed text messages between the two that show them plotting about a major sewage contract that Lakeshore Engineering officials say was killed because they didn't hire Ferguson.

"You haven't released that contract right?" Ferguson texted Kilpatrick.

"Right, they know I'm holding it," he responded.

"I need to hold it for a long time," Ferguson said.

1:00--Zingers: In addition to being a tough federal prosecutor, Bullotta also writes screenplays.  He just delivered what has to be his best line of the day so far, reminding jurors of the testimony of some minority contractors who said Kilpatrick and Ferguson bullied them.

"The defendants would like you to believe that they're all about helping minorities," he said.

"But the only color that mattered to Kilpatrick Incorporated was green," Bullotta said.

12:58--Obstruction: Bullotta is reminding jurors of Ferguson's alleged efforts to hide $40,000 in donations he made to Kilpatrick's campaign. According to friends who testified, Ferguson told them to lie and say the money came from them, not Ferguson.

12:56--Taking from the homeless? Bullotta is reminding jurors about the testimony of Jon Rutherford, a homeless shelter owner who paid Kilpatrick more $293,000.

He gave Kilpatrick $10,000 for suits from Dubai.  $5,000 for a Vegas trip. But not out of the goodness of his heart, he said.

"Jon Rutherford wanted something, and that was a casino development on the riverfront," he said.

12:53--From Bobby: Bullotta is using some more tough talk in describing what the alleged money shared between Ferguson and Kilpatrick really was.  Speaking of the $90,000 Ferguson allegedly gave to Mahlon Clift, which he delivered to Kilpatrick after boarding a plane, Bullotta said: "This was not a gift, there were the spoils of Kilpatrick, Inc."

12:50--The cash: Now Bullotta is moving on to all the money that went into Kilpatrick's accounts. He showed jurors a list of all the deposits made to his bank accounts.  Kilpatrick's lawyer Jim Thomas had argued that lots of the cash Kilpatrick received came from generous birthday gifts.

But Bullotta noted that there was no spike around the time of Kilpatrick's birthday; rather, there was a steady flow of cash throughout his entire tenure as mayor.

12:46--Comparison: Maybe the best witness Kilpatrick put up in his defense of the Civic Fund was the coach of a Detroit football team called the Westside Cubs, who Kilpatrick's non-profit donated $9,800 to while he wasy mayor. Bullotta tried to put that donation in context.

"(Kilpatrick) also went to the La Costa Spa, a beautiful Spa...took his family there a week for about $1,000 a night...he spent $8,600."

"That's almost the amount of money Kilpatrick Civic Fund gave to the Westside Cubs," he said.

It was 7 Action News that first exposed the La Costa trip in 2007.

12:44--The good life: Facials, massages, yoga.  These are just some of the things Kwame Kilpatrick used Civic Fund money to buy, Bullotta says.

Kilpatrick paid for his son's pre-school parties, summer camp, gold clubs and ritzy vacations, too.

12:42--Civic Fund: Moving on to the Civic Fund chapter of the trial, Bullotta played a clip of Kilpatrick in a 2001 mayoral debate, saying that he knew the fund couldn't be used for political expenses.

That was a lie, Bullotta said, and Kilpatrick knew it.

He reminded jurors of the testimony of Derrick Miller, Kilpatrick's former friend and close aide, who testified that Kilpatrick lied to voters about how the Civic Fund was used.

In fact, it was used to pay campaign consultants, political research and more.

"They had one purpose and one purpose only: to get Kwame Kilpatrick elected mayor," Bullotta said.

12:39--Start at the beginning: Bullotta is taking jurors back to evidence they first heard in September: how Kilpatrick helped steer state grants to Bobby Ferguson.  The money was secured under the guide that it would be used to train young people in construction, Bullota said, but in reality, it was used to refurbish Ferguson's office and buy him a home that he sold for a profit. In return, he said, Ferguson paid $100,000 of the state grant money to Kilpatrick's wife Carlita.

"(But) that was not enough for Kwame Kilpatrick," Bullotta said.

Kilpatrick's wife received another state grant from Rev. Edgar Vann to teach conflict resolution, but she never did, he said.

12:36--Greedy: Bullotta is wasting no time painting Kilpatrick and his crew as greedy. Calling their organization "Kilpatrick, Inc." he said it was a private, for-profit company that made its fortune on city contracts that belonged to the people, not them.

He reminded jurors that, while mayor, Kilpatrick lived in a free mansion, was driven around in free cars, had body guards at his beck and call. 

"But that wasn't enough," Bullotta said.

"He needed an addition $840,000," referencing the $840,000 in undeclared monies linked back to Kilpatrick.

12:33--Bullotta fires: Asst. U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta has moved the podium so that it's facing the jury.  He's delivering some harsh words to the former mayor and his co-defendants.

"If you wanted a city contract, you had to pay," he said. 

"If you didn't pay, you didn't get a contract."

Bullotta revisited a text message that the government has relied heavily on in this case.  It was sent by Bobby Ferguson to Kilpatrick, and read: "No deal without me."

"That was their mantra, those were their words, that was their scheme," Bullotta said.

12:30--Packed: As she entered the courtroom, Judge Nancy Edmunds noted that there wasn't an open seat in the courtroom, which is normally sparsely filled.

"Full house," she said.

12:25--Visual aides: It looks like the Bullotta will rely on some visual aides in his closing argument, much like his colleague Asst. U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow did with his opening statement.  I would expect some wiretaps and undercover video. 

12:20--Here we go: Beginning around lunchtime, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta is expected to make the government's closing argument in its case against ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard and friend Bobby Ferguson.

The three men are accused of running a criminal enterprise out of city hall.

Bullotta's task is not an easy one: sum up the last five-months of testimony in only a few hours of succinct argument.

He'll be followed by a lawyer for each of the three defendants.  Their arguments are expected to last into Wednesday, with the government having the opportunity to make a rebuttal argument after the defendants. 

The day began with good news for Bernard Kilpatrick, who had a 2007 tax evasion charge dismissed against him.  Another tax charge as well as an extortion charge were dropped on Friday, but the ex-mayor's father still faces a series of significant charges that could put him in prison for up to 20 years, including racketeering and extortion.

On Friday, Kwame Kilpatrick and Ferguson also had a single extortion charge dropped by the government. The U.S. Attorney's office said this was done to streamline the government's very complicated case.

Right now, jurors are being read more than 70-pages of instructions, telling them how they should deliberate and what evidence can and cannot be considered.

Have a question or comment for Ross? E-mail him at rjones@wxyz.com. You can also follow him on Twitter @RossJones7 or like him on Facebook.

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