Kilpatrick says "charity" was a political fund; feds say he pilfered non-profit meant to help city

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Kwame Kilpatrick broke his silence tonight about his much-maligned Kilpatrick Civic Fund, a non-profit social welfare organization that the feds have said was a charity he pilfered for his own benefit. 

"The Kilpatrick Civic Fund was a Political Fund," he said tonight on Twitter.

"IT WAS NEVER A CHARITY!  Donations not tax exempt & the fund had no obligation to give." 

He said his non-profit had no obligation to do "public good."

In the Civic Fund's filing with the state, however, it lists improving "the social welfare of Detroit citizens" as part of its purpose, saying it will use funds to aide in crime prevention, enhance neighborhoods, help children and educate constituents about the importance of voting.

The Civic Fund is exempt from paying taxes. 

The comments come on the heels of a difficult week of court for the former mayor.  Kilpatrick often reminds people that before he was Detroit's top elected official, he was a football player.  His criminal trial this week may have felt like an all-out blitz. 

The feds came after the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, charging he helped himself to funds meant to help the city. 

"I'm tired.  This is a tough case," said a winded James Thomas, Kilpatrick's attorney, as he left court.

Defense lawyers sometimes struggled to mount a response to the accusations: that Kilpatrick used his Civic Fund for things like deep tissue massages, facials and pedicures, paying college tuition for his sister and cousin, and even yoga lessons.  The list seemed endless at times.

The feds also said Kilpatrick traveled the country on the charity's dime, taking lavish trips like an $8,600 family vacation to a five-star California resort, an expense 7 Action News exposed in 2007. In court, lawyers played a clip from our report, when Kilpatrick's then-press secretary Matt Allen explained who foot the bill for the trip.

"So the Mayor personally paid for this personal trip?" asked 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo.

"For the family trip, the Mayor paid for that trip," Allen responded.

But that wasn't true.  When Allen testified in court this week, he said he only repeated what the Mayor told him.  Allen said he wasn't proud of the moment, adding it felt like his "pants had been pulled down."

Kilpatrick insists the trip wasn't all fun, adding that he was also in California to try to raise money for the charity.  Lawyers didn't say if he did, though. 

The feds' most devastating witness this week was April Edgar, the half-sister of Kilpatrick's former chief of staff and ex-lover Christine Beatty.  For a while, Edgar sat on the board of the Civic Fund, even though she didn't know what it did, as she told 7 Action in 2009.

"My whole thing was just taking over after Ms. Beatty left, and I took over as he secretary of signing checks.  I really don't even understand what the Civic Fund is for, to be honest with you," Edgar said.

That didn't stop her from signing plenty of sizeable checks, though.  She made them out to a camp for Kilpatrick's kids, posh hotels like the Four Seasons, water park resorts across the country and even the moving company that transported Kilpatrick's furniture to Dallas.

Edgar wrote almost all of them, she said, "because the mayor told me to."

Defense lawyers did their best to combat the prosecution, like when Kilpatrick's lawyer Jim Thomas suggested it was Christine Beatty who controlled the purse strings.

"She signed every check, almost every check," Thomas said, before adding "there's no blame involved."

Thomas said paying for camp for the ex-mayor's kids met the charity's mission of educating Detroit residents, even if their last name was Kilpatrick. He also argued that the line between business and pleasure can be blurry.  Yoga, for example, might seem like a purely personal expense, but a more focused and relaxed Kilpatrick was a benefit, he said, to the city.

The feds also tried to paint Kilpatrick as paranoid while in office.  They said he spent $1,400 in non-profit money to buy spy gear and have his office swept for listening devices.  And to avoid media detection while traveling out of state, Kilpatrick reserved hotel rooms under the name "Kevin Kitchen."

Got a tip for the 7 Action News Investigators?  Contact us at  tips@wxyz.com  or at (248) 827-9466.

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