Day 23: City hall shakedowns alleged as Kwame Kilpatrick trial reaches day 23

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Earlier today, 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones blogged live at federal court for day 23 of the Kilpatrick corruption case. Follow along below:

1:55 p.m. update - According to a federal court spokesperson, the trial has been placed on hold due to the illness of Evelyn. It is yet to be determined when the trial will resume.

12:25--Court canceled: With Mr. Evelyn's illness, Judge Edmunds' made the decision to end today's hearing. 

12:20--Attorney ill: A frightening scene played out in court at about 11:45 this morning, when attorney Gerald Evelyn asked for a five-minute break after he was apparently not feeling well.  An ambulance was soon called, and Evelyn was taken out on a stretcher at about 12:10 this afternoon. 

His condition is not clear, but our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family.  Gerald is one of the classiest lawyers in the business, and always friendly even in difficult circumstances. 

11:42--Ferguson muscled out?  Last week, Hardiman said another firm his company had hired as a subcontractor (owned by Angelo D'Alessandro) was forced out by Ferguson, who he said threatened to "shut these (expletive) jobs down."

But now, Evelyn is arguing that it was actually Ferguson who was forced out of work by D'Alessandro, and ultimately both sides agreed to pay Ferguson what amounted to a "settlement" for being pushed out.

This is a confusing part of testimony here, so Evelyn will want to make sure he's not lost the jury.

11:30--Kilpatrick & Ferguson: Ferguson has moved over one chair so he can sit next to Kilpatrick as Hardiman is cross-examined. Both men are leaning back in their chairs.  Kilpatrick's hands are clasped and resting on his stomach. Ferguson is sitting calmly and looking straight ahead.

11:07--Invoices: Ferguson attorney Gerald Evelyn is showing Hardiman two invoices from 2002, which indicate that Lakeshore Engineering paid Ferguson Enterprises for $45,000 worth of water main work. Hardiman says he doesn't have any knowledge of the work related to these invoices.  Not clear, at least right now, where Evelyn is going with this, other than to suggest there was a prior business relationship between the two companies. 

10:57--Interesting strategy: So far, Evelyn's questioning has had very little to do with Hardiman and has mostly focused on how Ferguson is charitable, caring and interested in helping the city.  Evelyn has not (at least yet) even brought up the alleged shakedowns that Hardiman described in detail all day on Friday.

10:32--Short break: It's time for the morning break here in Judge Edmunds' courtroom.  Stay with us.

10:30--Charitable, too: Evelyn is continuing down this path, pointing out that Bobby Ferguson worked on the "Homer Ferguson Foundation," named after his father.  It fed the homeless at Thanksgiving and performed other charitable work.  In fact, Hardiman served on the board for a while because, he said, he believed it was the moral thing to do.

10:22--Family man: Perhaps in an effort to paint him as a softer, gentler defendant, Evelyn is asking Hardiman about Ferguson's three daughters, who Ferguson sometimes brought with him to work. Hardiman has met all three, he said, and Ferguson met Hardiman's sons. 

"Mr. Ferguson shares some of those same values you share: family, business, increasing opportunities for minorities," Evelyn said.

Hardiman agreed. 

10:09--More support: Evelyn is reminding Hardiman that, early on, his company offered Kilpatrick office space at a reduced rate to house his campaign.  Hardiman testified that it gave his company "name recognition" with the mayor.

"You didn't just want name recognition," Evelyn said.

"You wanted money, is that correct?  You wanted to get paid."

Hardiman agreed.

10:04--Political support: Ferguson lawyer Gerald Evelyn is up now, reminding Hardiman that he and Lakeshore were very generous in their support of Kilpatrick and his campaign, donating money and holding fundraisers.  He's saying that Hardiman did all this for Kilpatrick's support when it came time to seek city contracts.  Hardiman disagreed, saying he simply wanted to support Kilpatrick.

"You're just saying it was a coincidence that vendors who gave $25,000 wanted to get business with the city," Evelyn said.

Evelyn is likely trying to paint Hardiman as a businessman who'd do anything to curry favor with Kilpatrick, including the alleged payments to Ferguson, and that he only complained about them until the feds came a calling.

9:55--Ferguson & Kilpatrick: After Hardiman made phone calls to Kwame Kilpatrick's mother, trying to get a response for why his contracts were going nowhere, text messages show that Ferguson was aware.

"Tom hardiman, lakesure (sic) they called your mother office on us.  Zeke just called me," Ferguson said in a text to Kilpatrick.

"Lolol," Kilpatrick responded.

The point of Crandall introducing this?  To try to show that it was Kilpatrick and Ferguson pulling the strings: not Mercado. 

9:47--Phone call away: Hardiman acknowledged that he didn't have any personal knowledge that Ferguson had control over Mercado.  But Ferguson could always get ahold of the water chief. 

"He could call him," Hardiman said.

9:40--Previous contracts: Friday, Hardiman testified that two contracts he was awarded by the city (one for $10 million and another for $5 million) were both canceled not long after he refused to hire Bobby Ferguson as a subcontractor. 

Crandall is suggesting that both of those contracts were "as needed" contracts, meaning that the city could pay him up to the amount agreed , but could also pay much less if officials didn't deem all the work necessary. 

In other words, he's hinting that these jobs weren't vital, and that's why Mercado nixed his contracts. 

9:34--Bobby & Victor not friends: Crandall wants the jury to know that Ferguson and his client Mercado weren't exactly buddies.

"Did you know Mr. Mercado and Mr. Ferguson did not get along?" asked Crandall.

Without directly answering the question, Hardiman made it clear that he knew from personal experience that dealing with Ferguson was a "challenge."

9:27--Short break: Hold on, folks.  We have another break in the action that (I suspect) has something to do with a juror issue. 

"We have an emergency.  We need to take a break," Judge Nancy Edmunds said, before granting a brief recess.

I don't think it's anything too serious, but we'll just have to wait and see.

9:22--Defense is up: The prosecution has finished up with Hardiman. The first defense lawyer to cross-examine him is Martin Crandall, who represents fmr. water dept. chief Victor Mercado.

9:19--Kwame gone: Once Mayor Kilpatrick had left office, Lakeshore and Hardiman received city business without the help of Bobby Ferguson, Hardiman testified.  He said he no longer felt the need to bring Bobby Ferguson in on work once Kilpatrick wasn't in power.

"It was easier to say no," Hardiman said.

9:15--More frequent requests: Bobby Ferguson started asking more frequently for payments from Hardiman and Lakeshore Engineering as Kilpatrick's time as mayor appeared to be running out in 2008.  You'll recall the mayor was enthralled in the text-message scandal at the time, and was under immense pressure to resign.  He ultimately did in September 2008, and headed to jail.

9:14--Bow tie's back: It's been a few weeks, but Kilpatrick is sporting a yellow bow tie today.  We suspended the "tie tally" that was a part of this blog for the first several days because the score got out of hand, but I didn't want to let today's bow tie go unnoticed.

9:04--Showing his colors:  A World Series sweep isn't stopping defendant Bobby Ferguson from showing his Tigers pride.  He came into federal court today sporting a Tigers ball cap and a big grin.  You'd never know he was on trial for racketeering.

9:00--Welcome back: We'll hear more testimony today on what the feds call the "climate of fear," an understanding among city contractors that Bobby Ferguson needed to be cut-in on jobs if they hoped to get or keep their city business.  Thomas Hardiman will be back on the stand today.  Last week, he testified that he felt pressured to pay Ferguson more than $1 million for work he never did, all just to keep his city contracts.

The prosecution still has at least a few questions for Hardiman, and then all four defense teams will surely go at him hard for cross-examination.

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