Day 25: Defense continues to chip away at witness credibility in Kilpatrick case

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Earlier today, 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones ( rjones@wxyz.com /@RossJones7) blogged live from Kwame Kilpatrick's corruption trial. Follow along below:

12:57--That's all, folks: We'll see you back here tomorrow at 9AM for day 26.

12:55--Keep him happy: According to Hardiman, his boss Avinash Rachmale was fearful of upsetting Bobby Ferguson, and made sure to always meet his demands.

Rachmale is expected to be the government's next witness. 

12:52--Govt. fires back: Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow is trying to put a different spin on Gerald Evelyn's argument earlier, that Ferguson had an interest in helping other African-American businesses like Hardiman's, and shared the same kinds of values as Hardiman. 

"Do you feel Mr. Ferguson was trying to help your company by demanding (consulting fees)," asked Chutkow.

"I was upset," Hardiman said.

"Do you think that was part of your shared values," Chutkow asked.

"No," Hardiman said.

12:45--Shut it down: When he didn't meet Ferguson's demands, Hardiman says Ferguson told him "I'll shut it down," referring to his jobs.

Hardiman says his boss, Avinash Rachmale, also received threats from Ferguson.  According to Hardiman, Ferguson told Rachmale: "You won't get anymore change orders because of that crazy Tom Hardiman," he said.

12:32--Ferguson double-dips: For a city job that was so big it was divided into two, Ferguson got a piece of both.  He worked for both A&H Contractors (Hardiman's company) and a company called ECI. However, Ferguson didn't want his name put on A&H's proposal, saying he had an "exclusive" deal with Inland Waters, according to Hardiman. So Ferguson Enterprises was left off the proposal, but still got work.

12:20--Short break: Stay with us, folks.

12:10--Give more to Bobby: Lakeshore and another company were required to give up part of the work they were promised on a city contract so that Ferguson's company and Inland Waters (owned by Tony Soave) could get a bigger piece, Hardiman testified.

11:56--No work: Chutkow points out that between 2000 and 2005, Lakeshore received no work from the Detroit Water and Sewarage Department (DWSD).  It was only after hiring Bobby Ferguson that Lakeshore began receiving contracts, he says.

For the record, Kilpatrick was mayor from 2002 through 2008.

11:50--Evenlyn done: Evelyn's cross-examination is now over.  Kilpatrick's lawyer Jim Thomas passed on asking Hardiman any questions, and now Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow is up.

11:40--Actual title: It seems Hardiman's actual title for Lakeshore--at least in 2006--was contract administrator. In a 2009 letter, Hardiman was identified as Lakeshore's "Chairman," when he really wasn't.

11:20--Evelyn holding up: For being in the hospital less than two weeks ago, Gerald Evelyn has recovered well and is holding up nicely.  He's been the only defense attorney to question Hardiman in the last 2 days of testimony, and he hasn't shown any signs of fatigue or stress. 

He disclosed yesterday that he was sidelined because of a heart ailment.  Let's hope he continues to remain in good health.  

11:01--We're back: Evelyn is back, continuing to grill Hardiman on this third day of cross-examination.  It's worth noting that Hardiman only testified one day for the prosecution, and it was more than 2 weeks ago.  Do you think jurors remember that testimony very well? 

10:28--Defense strategy: So what's the defense accomplished, or tried to, so far today?  In this reporter's view, they continued to raise questions about Hardiman's credibility.  Evelyn has tried to suggest that Hardiman has selective amnesia, claiming he can't remember things like signing letters, lawsuits filed against him, and even how much he was paid by Lakeshore, but he remembers vividly conversations about alleged extortion from years ago.

He's also done a nice job establishing that, at least on paper, Hardiman's company had some very nice things to say about Ferguson Enterprises after Ferguson was said to have been extorting Hardiman.

It's sort of like a game of ping pong.  When the prosecution was up, they seemed to be landing some solid blows against Kilpatrick and Ferguson.  But the defense--particularly Evelyn--has done a nice job at deflecting some of those swings. 

10:18--Morning break: And with that, it's time for a short break to allow everyone in the courtroom to stretch their legs.  Grab another cup of coffee and come on back, folks.

10:10--"Greatly appreciated" In 2009, a Lakeshore employee sent a letter to Ferguson Enterprises, praising them for their good work and saying Lakeshore was looking forward to working together in the future.  It shows that, at least at the time, there appeared to be a very good relationship between Lakeshore and Ferguson.

Is that the kind of letter you'd send to someone who you now claim had extorted you?  That's what Evelyn wants the jury to consider.

10:03--Out of the company: Evelyn continues to focus on Hardiman's

title, pointing out that at the time he signed that letter, he wasn't even part of the company anymore.  Hardiman says he did that because he was regarded within the city as the African-American face of the company. 

9:58--Looking calm: As Evelyn continues to question Hardiman on the witness stand, Kwame Kilpatrick is leaning back in his chair, with one finger pressed against his temple, leafing through a book.  I can't make out the book's title from this vantage point, but the former mayor seems cool as a cucumber.

9:54--Inland Waters: The company that received both of the water main contracts (which Hardiman was complaining about) was Inland Waters, owned by city contractor Tony Soave. But the contracts were given out while Dave Bing was mayor, not Kilpatrick.

Soave is expected to testify in this trial in the coming weeks, saying he was extorted by then Mayor Kilpatrick to provide him with jet travel and other fancy perks.

9:51--Title trouble? Evelyn is making a big deal out of the fact that in the letter he sent to the City protesting this contract, Hardiman is identified as "Chairman, Lakeshore Group," when in fact he was only the Chairman of the company's advisory board.  

It looks like Evelyn is trying to raise credibility issues here with Hardiman. 

9:43--Lakeshore complains: We've moved on from the lawsuit against Hardiman's son, and now Evelyn is showing Hardiman a letter he sent to the City of Detroit after his company was passed up for some water main work.  Hardiman thought his company didn't get a fair shake, as both of the water main contracts up for bid went to the same company.  We'll see where Evelyn goes with this.

9:29--Dad sued, too: Thomas Hardiman's A&H Contractors was also sued as part of this lawsuit (apparently they were involved), but Hardiman says he doesn't recall being sued or how it was resolved. 

9:22--Hardiman's son: Evelyn is pointing out to the jury Hardiman's son John (who once worked for his dad) started his own company that did landscaping work.  Apparently Ferguson Enterprises and Hardiman's previous employer, Lakeshore, hired John Hardiman's company.  Evelyn says that on at least one occasion when Ferguson hired John Hardiman's company, they were sued by another company for allegedly not paying his workers. 

Not sure what this has to do with the price of tea in China, but perhaps Evelyn will make a connection soon. 

9:20--Underway: We're finally moving now, picking up with Gerald Evelyn continuing his cross-examination of A&H Contracting's founder, Thomas Hardiman. 

9:15--Still waiting: Well this is the latest start we've had so far in the trial, as the jury has still not been brought in, and Judge Nancy Edmunds has just asked the lawyers to join her at sidebar for a (hopefully brief) discussion. A legal expert told me we shaved several week off the trial with one of the defendants (Mercado) now out of the picture, so maybe there's less pressure on everyone to move things along quickly. 

9:05--Welcome back: Today marks the 25th day of trial here in federal court, and I can see from a quick glance around the courtroom that someone forgot to bring the balloons. 

We're a little late getting started, as Bobby Ferguson's lead attorney Gerald Evelyn is missing from the defense table.  Our ace intern Joe MacLean tells me that he spotted Evelyn waiting in the long security line downstairs a few minutes ago, so we expect to get going shortly.

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