Day 10: Fund meant to help city paid for Kilpatrick political research, witness testifies

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Earlier today, 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones was blogging from federal court on day 10 of the Kilpatrick corruption case.  Follow along below:

1:07--Done for the day: And with that, we're done for the week.  No court Monday (Happy Columbus Day), but we'll be back Tuesday at 9AM.  Thanks for joining us.

1:05--Shared with other politicos: Thomas told Gotoff that the information Kilpatrick paid for was shared with other candidates whom Kilpatrick asked for their support.

1:02--Not for the public: Gotoff said the research was intended for Kilpatrick's campaign, not the public at large. He said it was sensitive information--some of it negative to Kilpatrick--that was not widely disseminated. 

"We would get fired pretty quickly (if we released that publicly)," Gotoff said.

1:00--Government fires back: In a series of short, sharp questions, U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow tried to shoot down the arguments Thomas spent the last 45-minutes making.

"Who was your client," Chutkow asked Gotoff.

"Kilpatrick for Mayor," Gotoff said.

"Who was the beneficiary of your services," he asked.

"The Kilpatrick campaign--initially the exploratory effort--then the campaign," Gotoff responded.

On a large screen, Chutkow showed memos written by Gotoff's research company (regarding the research the Civic Fund paid for) discussing Kilpatrick's likability, his chances of being successful, and how to improve the campaign's advertising.

12:55--Other research: Gotoff testified that once Kilpatrick won, he paid for future political research with his campaign fund, not the Civic Fund. 

12:49--Juror's call: Is it political research?  Or an investment in the community? That's the decision jurors will have to make, and it might be a closer call than the government would like. On one hand, it's difficult to argue that questions about what voters think about Kwame Kilpatrick would be benefitting anyone other than Kilpatrick. 

But on the other, Thomas is doing his best to argue that many other questions asked here were really for the benefit of the city.  If Kilpatrick became mayor, Thomas said, he would use this information to tackle the problems that constituents most cared about.

One point the government will surely use to throw water on Thomas's argument: the research wasn't asking just ordinary citizens.  It was asking undecided voters--people Kilpatrick wanted on his side if he threw his hat in the ring. 

12:37--Gotoff disagrees: Thomas continues to say throughout his questioning that the surveys performed by Gotoff weren't Kilpatrick-specific.  But Gotoff seems to disagree, saying that the surveys were done in the context of Kilpatrick's mayoral run. 

12:28--Thomas tries to diffuse: Thomas asked Gotoff if his research focused on "issues."  Gotoff agreed that it did. Thomas is arguing that these surveys and focus groups weren't conducted to benefit Kilpatrick, but to figure out the issues that voters cared about.

He's pointing to questions asked of voters about investing in infrastructure, supporting seniors, economic development and other issues that he says weren't being posed to help Kwame Kilpatrick, but the city.

Thomas, like all the lawyers on this case, is a skilled litigator, and he's trying to muddy the waters for the jury.  One man's political research is another man's voter education guide. 

12:10--Brief break: Stay with us.

12:00--Research findings: Gotoff testified that focus groups performed for Kilpatrick with undecided voters found that he had "no barriers," and that he was seen as a strong, knowledgeable leader when he spoke.

11:50--Costly research: The 20-minute political poll conducted for Kilpatrick's mayoral run cost $21,930.  It was paid for by the Civic Fund with two checks, both signed by Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty.  After the research was complete, Kilpatrick formally announced his run for mayor.

11:44--Political Poll: Gotoff's company polled hundreds of Detroit voters in 2001, asking them what they thought of Kilpatrick as a person, if they were bothered by his age, if they thought he was a "political insider," and other questions. 

11:32--Civic Fund paid for research: Gotoff testifies that the Kilpatrick Civic Fund paid for political research his company conducted for Kilpatrick's mayoral run.  This is key evidence, folks, as it is the first document to show Kilpatrick's non-profit fund (supposed to help the city, improve kid's lives, get people to vote) was spending its funds on efforts to get Kilpatrick into office. A big no-no. 

11:27--Third witness: The next witness for the day is a man named Daniel Gotoff.  He currently works at Lake Research Partners in Washington, D.C., a company that does public opinion research for political campaigns. He has been there since, at least, 2001. He says his company performed research for Kilpatrick's mayoral campaign in the Spring of 2001. 

11:25--Talk about, don't endorse: Thomas is making the point that the Civic Fund could "talk about" candidates, but could not endorse them or instruct voters to vote for them.  Beeckman agrees.  Beeckman also pointed out that you can't give any money from the Civic Fund to a campaign.

And with that, Beeckman is off the witness stand. 

11:21--Still in command: FBI agent Beeckman testified under oath that even after Kilpatrick gave control (on paper) of the Civic Fund to his sister Ayanna, he was still very much in control of the fund and how it operated. 

11:16--Returned money: Thomas indicated that his client Kwame Kilpatrick returned money to the Civic Fund in 2008.  Beeckman agreed, saying he was under the impression Kilpatrick paid back the cost of "personal expenses" using cash. 

No word on whether it came from a shoe, bra or vacuum. 

11:03--Back to Bell: Just when it seems the focus is shifting to the Civic Fund, Thomas pivots back to Emma Bell.  Thomas is focusing on a text message sent by Kilpatrick when he learned Bell wanted to see him.  Kilpatrick said to send Bell to his chief of staff's office, not his own (which is a few steps away).  Thomas is suggesting that if Kilpatrick was about to accept a kickback, he would not invite Bell into someone else's office; he would do it in private.

11:00--We're back: FBI agent Beeckman is still on the stand.  Kilpatrick lawyer Jim Thomas is pointing out that, many years ago, Kwame Kilpatrick was removed as an officer of the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, but was still involved in the non-profit's fundraising. 

10:40--Short break: Stay with us.

10:33--The lawyer: William Phillips is a name that most readers won't recognize, but he was the lawyer for the Kilpatrick Civic Fund for many years. When 7 Action News caught the mayor and his family using Civic Fund money for a family vacation in 2007, Phillips was sent out to diffuse the controversy.  He insisted emphatically that the trip wasn't a vacation, but a fundraising trip.

My money says we'll see Mr. Phillips testify soon.  Hopefully he'll say more than when I ran into him at a Potbelly's Sandwich Shop a few years ago.  He wouldn't even confirm what kind of cheese he put on his turkey sandwich, let alone if the fund had been subpoenaed. 

10:20--"Enhance neighborhoods:" Under cross-examination from Kilpatrick lawyer Jim Thomas, Beeckman is being asked if Kilpatrick delivering speeches could be considered "enhancing neighborhoods," a stated goal of the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.  After some deliberation, Beeckman said it could be.

Expect Thomas to point out that Kilpatrick's non-profit did some good things, like paying for a football team's uniforms. But the issue for the feds isn't whether it ever the Civic Fund ever met its non-profit purpose.  They only need to show that it violated IRS rules in how it spent non-profit funds.

10:15--Texts: We have seen only three text messages through the first 10 days of this trial.  We can expect approximately 40 to be entered into evidence. 

10:10--Channel 7 enters: Hey, I'm on TV!  Sort of.  Beeckman is discussing a mayoral debate aired on WXYZ-TV in 2002 between Kilpatrick and challenger Gil Hill.  In the debate, Kilpatrick says that his non-profit Kilpatrick Civic Fund (a non-profit that was supposed to improve the community, help children and increase voter participation) hasn't "used one penny of the Civic Fund in this campaign because it's not allowed by law."

"I would not mess with the IRS," he said.

The feds say they will prove, in fact, that Kilpatrick did spend Civic Fund money on his campaign.

9:53--Here come the texts: With the exception of opening arguments, we haven't seen any texts during this trial. That changed this morning, when Asst. U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow introduced texts to and from Kilpatrick regarding Emma Bell.

On August 6, the same day Bell cashed a $100,000 check from Kilpatrick's mayoral campaign, aide DeDan Milton texted Kilpatrick: "Emma wanted to stop in later for @ 5-10 minutes max.  What should I tell her?"

Hours later, another Kilpatrick employee texted the mayor: "Emma Bell is here." 

Kilpatrick responded, "Tell her to come to Chris ofc."  Christine Beatty was Kilpatrick's chief of staff.

Bell testified yesterday that she gave Kilpatrick $40,000 to $50,000 from that check. 

9:37--G-man on the stand: Bob Beeckman, the lead FBI agent on the Kilpatrick corruption case, is now on the stand. He is talking about search warrants he filed for the Skytel text messages of Kwame Kilpatrick, Bobby Ferguson, Bernard Kilpatrick, fmr. chief of staff Christine Beatty, fmr. chief information officer Derrick Miller, and political advisor Michael Tardif from 2002 through 2005.

9:31--Burris and Bell: Last night, Burris and Bell had dinner for approximately two hours.  Burris says she and Bell did not discuss this case, or her testimony.

9:29--"Drinking problem:" Thomas didn't go "there" yesterday with Bell, but he did with Burris.  He asked Burris if he was aware of Bell's drinking problem.  Burris said she was not. 

9:26--Never saw hand off:  Burris said she never saw Bell hand Kwame Kilpatrick any cash. Yesterday, Bell testified that she regularly would give Kilpatrick an envelope with cash, sometimes stuffed in her bra.  Bell said this was done in a private room in Kilpatrick's mayoral office suite.

9:20--Visits to Kilpatrick, casino: Burris said she drove Bell to visit Kilpatrick at least 10 times.  She also drove her to the casino about twice a week, she said.  Thomas seems skeptical that Bell only went gambling twice a week, and Burris responded that she sometimes went without her. 

9:14--Tie tally: Apologies for the tardiness of this update.  It's another necktie for Kwame Kilpatrick, bringing the score to neckties: 8, bow ties: 3.

9:11--Civic Fund: The controversial Kilpatrick Civic Fund is again the topic of questioning, and it's likely an indication that the feds will soon start harping on some of the alleged illegal payments to come from its coffers.  Burris acknowledges that she, along with Bell, performed work on the Civic Fund, and sometimes handled checks that were made out to the fund. 

9:06--Angela Burris: A witness who was mentioned yesterday is now on the stand.  Her name is Angela Burris, and she worked with Emma Bell during the same time that Bell was Kilpatrick's top fundraiser. Burris also was Bell's driver, and sometimes drove her from the bank to the Coleman A. Young Building, where the mayor's office is located. 

9:02--Welcome to day 10: Good morning everyone.  Will today's testimony top the drama from yesterday?  The bar is high, as day 9 featured Emma Bell who said Kilpatrick was: 1) like a son to her, 2) expected kickbacks from her, 3) alone in a room with her as she pulled out wads of cash from her bra. 

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