Ferguson used friends to funnel campaign cash to Kilpatrick, ex-girlfriend says

(WXYZ) - Did Bobby Ferguson tell his friends to lie to the FBI about secret campaign donations he made through other people?

That was just one of many questions the jury in the Kilpatrick corruption case will be weighing after Friday's testimony.

 Federal prosecutors covered a lot of ground Friday – they got a difficult witness to agree he told a federal grand jury that Bernard Kilpatrick said "Coleman Young got paid, I'm going to get paid too."

But, perhaps the most damaging testimony focused on Bobby Ferguson Friday.

Bobby Ferguson celebrated the Tiger's victory by showing his team spirit on his way into federal court, but he may not be celebrating now.

Three sisters took the stand and told the jury about money orders Ferguson gave them to sign that ended up in Kwame Kilpatrick's campaign coffers. The feds started with Renee Newsome, who says she dated Ferguson for about 7 years.

Ferguson, the former Detroit Mayor, Bernard Kilpatrick and ex-Water Department Director Victor Mercado are all on trial facing racketeering charges, accused of running a criminal enterprise out of city hall.

Newsome testified about four different money orders she signed that totaled $3,400 – the maximum an individual can donate to a political campaign. She told the jury, Ferguson had paid for the money orders, and that when she signed them they were blank. She said someone later wrote them out to "Kilpatrick for Mayor."

Next her sisters, Josephine Johnson and Darlene Jefferson said the same thing about $3400 in Ferguson-funded money orders that they each signed.

When Newsome testified that after the FBI started asking questions, Ferguson told her to say the money was hers, and to "stick to her story."

But Ferguson's attorney Gerald Evelyn pressed Newsome on whether she was told to do that for the federal grand jury or whether that was for a hearing in front of the state gaming board. She then said she thought it was for the gaming board. That could make a difference for an obstruction charge Ferguson is facing.

Newsome did admit, though, that the first time she spoke the FBI, she wasn't truthful about who purchased the money orders.

Also Friday, Jon Rutherford faced cross examination about the hundreds of thousands of dollars he gave to Kwame Kilpatrick and his various campaign and non-profit funds. Federal prosecutors say Rutherford was bribing the former mayor. But when Kilpatrick attorney Jim Thomas asked Rutherford if Kilpatrick forced him to give the money, Rutherford said no. Rutherford accepted a guilty plea for tax evasion in exchange for his cooperation in the case.

The feds say Rutherford gave about $80,000 to Ernest Johnson's Community Coalition political fund for Kilpatrick's first mayoral race.

Johnson testified that it's common practice for whoever his group endorses to pay the poll workers. In this case, federal prosecutors say Bernard Kilpatrick got Rutherford to foot that bill.

"I got the check for 8,000 then I went and cashed it at the market and paid my workers," said Johnson. He said he didn't know where the other money went.

Meanwhile, Kwame Kilpatrick's impeccable outfits have become part of his federal racketeering trial. 

On Thursday, Rutherford told the jury that back in 2002 the former mayor asked him for 10-grand in cash to buy suits on an upcoming trip to Dubai.

Friday, the former Chairman of the Arab American Chamber of Commerce took the witness stand. Ahmad Chebbani told the jury that Kilpatrick and members of his staff were part of a delegation that visited Dubai to meet with business leaders.

Chebbani said that in the middle of a business dinner on their last night in the U.A.E. – Kilpatrick suddenly got up to leave so he could go get measured for new suits he had purchased in Dubai.

Kilpatrick attorney Jim Thomas asked Chebbani if he ever saw Kilpatrick with large amounts of cash on the trip and Chebbani said no.

7 Action News has been receiving a lot of emails from people who are wondering how Kilpatrick has paid for the suits he keeps wearing to the trial. His attorney says those suits are not new. 

Testimony resumes on Monday.
 

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