DETROIT (WXYZ) - Earlier today, 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones blogged from federal court downt own. Got a question for Ross? Follow his blog below:
12:25--A juror is ill: We're ending a little early today, as a juror is feeling ill. So we'll call it a day for now, but we'll be back tomorrow at 9AM. Several of you have e-mailed me some great comments and questions about the first 8 days of testimony. Please keep them coming! My e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for joining us today at WXYZ.com
12:21--"Disguise the correlation:" Kilpatrick's lawyer has made the point that the IRS could find no correlation between cash that Bell got from the bank and cash that was deposited into Kilpatrick's accounts. The prosecution suggested a reason for that: the former mayor stored money in places like his shoe, for example. If he put it there, and not a bank account, it would "disguise the correlation" and not show up in a bank record.
12:18--Wide range: Bell was paid between $52,000 and $278,000 each year between 2003 and 2008 as Kilpatrick's fundraiser. As we've said, she also incurred huge losses each year at the casino. Thomas is suggesting that Bell didn't kick back any money to Kilpatrick but, instead, needed to save it to pay off the five-figure hits she was taking at Greektown Casino.
12:11--Sauer testimony continues: I hope IRS agent Ron Sauer is comfortable in the witness box. He's spent countless hours there testifying this week. This is at least his fourth time testifying and, safe to say, probably not his last.
Sorry for the delay. Once again, I had to run outside to do a quick live shot for our 7 Action News at Noon viewers. My apologies for the lack of blogging during that time.
11:42--Drinking problem, too: As Kilpatrick's lawyer continues to poke holes in a witness's credibility who hasn't even testified today, he is also telling jurors that Bell had a drinking problem, too.
IRS agent Ron Sauer agreed.
11:30--Huge gambling bets and losses: On a day in 2008, Thomas says Bell gambled more than $9,000 at Greektown Casino. He's trying to paint her as a reckless gambling addict who couldn't afford to kickback any money to Kilpatrick.
In 2006, she gambled more than $789,000 in slots, and got back only about $732,000, putting her about $56,000 in the red.
11:10--Gambling problems: The defense again is harping on Bell's gambling problem. Attorney Jim Thomas asked IRS agent Ron Sauer if he ever subpoenaed Bell's gambling records from Greektown Casino. He said he had.
Now I'm not a gambler, but what would "gambling records"even look like?
10:51--Short break: Testimony will resume after a brief break.
10:50--Strategy: You're probably wondering why defense lawyer Jim Thomas dropped the bomb that Bell says that she gave Kilpatrick kickbacks. Likely it's because he knows Bell will say that very soon (she may be the next witness), and he wanted to blunt her testimony before she even speaks. He also took plenty of whacks at her credibility, so he's clearly trying to define her before she even walks into the room.
10:34--Bell split money with Kilpatrick: According to Thomas, Bell told the feds that she split money from her checks with Kilpatrick. But she changed her story, Sauer says. She originally said she gave Kilpatrick 50% of any check she received over $25,000, but six days later, she said Kilpatrick got a cut of anything over $5,000.
Bell said she lied initially because she didn't want to make Kilpatrick look "petty," Sauer said.
10:30--Lots of meetings: The feds met with Bell at least 10 times to discuss, at least in part, alleged funneling money to Kilpatrick. Thomas says the funneling didn't happen, and Bell didn't file her taxes from as far back as the 80s, and had a serious gambling problem.
10:25--Reminder: In opening statements, the feds said Bell was required by Kilpatrick to kick-back more than $250,000 in payments his various funds made to her.
10:10--Hiding checks: Thomas alleges that Bell was breaking these large checks into smaller $10,000 cashiers checks at the bank to hide the actual amount she was receiving.
Thomas also alleges that Bell was aware that any check deposited in the amount larger than $10,000.01 would trigger a red flag to the feds. Sauer agrees that she was aware.
10:00--Assailing Bell: She's not on the witness stand, but Kilpatrick's lawyers are wasting no time in going after the credibility of Emma Bell. Kilpatrick lawyer Jim Thomas points out that Bell had past "troubles with the IRS," and Sauer agrees. The defense will likely argue Bell was no angel.
"Do you have any evidence she took those checks to the casino to cash," Thomas asked Sauer.
He did not know.
9:53--Lots of funds, lots of money: Emma Bell had lots of money coming from lots of different funds: Kilpatrick for Mayor, the Kilpatrick Inaugural Committee, the Next Vision Foundation and the Kilpatrick Civic Fund. From 2003-2008, the checks totaled $904,051.
9:47--Paid handsomely: The prosecution is focusing on payments Bell received from Kilpatrick's various funds (Kilpatrick for Mayor, the Kilpatrick Inaugural fund, others). In 2006, for example, Bell received an $85,000 check from Kilpatrick's campaign fund. She went to the bank, agent Sauer says, and had about $10,000 of that money cashed, while the remaining $75,000 or so was turned into a series of cashiers checks. Those checks were later cashed as well.
Where'd that money go? Perhaps we'll soon find out.
9:38--Emma Bell: We could hear from Emma Bell today in court, as Bullotta just mentioned her name and has asked Sauer to tell the jurors about her. She was Kilpatrick's chief fundraiser whiel he was mayor and pled guilty to tax evasion last year. She is expected to testify against Kilpatrick.
9:37--Quick payment: Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta points out that Carlita Kilpatrick's U.N.I.T.E. was only 5 months old before it was wired $100,000 in state grant funds from Ferguson's Detroit 3D.
9:32--Welcome back, Sauer: IRS agent Ron Sauer is back, for at least the fourth time as a government witness, to testify.
9:30--Training area returns: The defense is returning to their argument that Ferguson planned to build a "training area" with this state money to help train workers in the construction or demolition industry. It would contribute to economic development, they argue, and Bartlett agrees.
But did it ever get built? It's been hard to find evidence that shows it was ever constructed. We've heard witness testimony from individuals Ferguson hired to remodel his offices: none had heard of a "training area."
Bartlett is now done testifying.
9:21--Don't pay Carlita: Bartlett is testifying that the state was concerned about paying for work performed by Carlita Kilpatrick's group U.N.I.T.E., unless she provided the proper documentation to back-up her work with the non-profit Vanguard Community Development Group.
9:14--We did what we said: Van Dusen is pointing out to Bartlett that, on their application to the state for grant money, Ferguson's Detroit 3D indicated it would provide "economic development" to the community.
Ferguson also said he would help children and seniors with the grant, but no doubt that "economic development" is the easiest argument for Ferguson's lawyers to make here. You can argue that spending any money in a community contributes (somehow) to economic development. But the prosecution is skeptical.
"Would you argue remodeling a president's office as means of economic development," asked Asst. US Attorney Eric Doeh, referencing that Ferguson used grant money to fancy-up his private office.
Bartlett said he would not.
9:12--Witness returns: Kelly Bartlett, a state official formerly with the state's budget office, is again on the stand. He's being cross-examined by Ferguson lawyer Susan Van Dusen.
9:07--Tie tally: It's turning into a blowout on this eighth day of trial. The former mayor is again sporting a necktie this morning, bringing the score to Neckties: 6, Bow ties: 2.
9:05--Procedural discussion: Morning all. The judge is discussing some procedural issues with lawyers right now, and we'll be set to continue testimony in just a couple of minutes.