BLOG: Contractor Ferguson sought "help" from Kilpatrick, text messages show

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Follow the very latest in the Kilpatrick corruption trial as 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones blogs live from federal court. WARNING: Some of today's testimony features harsh language:

11:52--Getting interesting: Just as things are getting interesting, the Judge is ending for the day. After a sidebar discussion among lawyers and the judge about this issue, we're ending a little early. 

11:43--Document issues: Asst. U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow is asking Paskiewicz about a defense exhibit that was shown previously to her by one of Ferguson's lawyers on the wintess stand. The exhibit indicates that Ferguson Enterprises showed up the day after a Detroit sinkhole collapsed, which Ferguson received work on.  But agent Paskiewicz says she understood Ferguson's team really didn't show up until 2 weeks after the sinkhole collapsed.  

It seems that Paskiewicz and Chutkow might suggest that this document, shown earlier, isn't accurate.  

11:36--EPA agent: Up now is Carol Paszkiewicz, an agent with the EPA. 

11:30--Oops: I hope the defense didn't have some blockbuster documents that were key to their case sitting on the table just now.  Becuase if they did, there's a good chance Bobby Ferguson spilled water all of them.  He's currently mopping up some h2O from the table, a result of accidentally knocking over a cup.  

11:24--4th lowest: Earlier, Rataj argued that FBI agent Bob Beeckman was mistaken, and that Ferguson was the lowest bidder on the Walbridge project.  In reality, says Chutkow (who is showing documents that Rataj also presented), Ferguson was 4th lowest. 

11:18--Rataj done: The bulldog is taking a seat. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow is now up again. 

11:15--Friends in high places: Rataj is reminding Beeckman of testimony from business titan Tony Soave and other executives and consultants who have acknowledged the importance of having good relationships with the mayor.  He also reminded Rataj of testimony of one witness, who said water contracts were sometimes steered to friends by water department employees. 

"That's a function of relationships," Rataj said. 

"Steering of contracts is a function of relationships?" Beeckman responded. 

Later on, Rataj put it this way: "Relationships is how you get things done. It's how you get a leg up on your compeition."  

11:10--Other contractors: Going back to a text message already admitted which shows, Rataj reminds the jury that Walbridge's CEOJ John Rakolta was trying to arrange a meeting with Kilpatrick.  

A subsequent page of the Mayor's schedule shows Rakolta met with Kilpatrick at the Manoogian Mansion. 

Rataj's point: Other contractors tried to, and succeeded, in arranging meetings with the mayor. 

11:09--Not just Bobby: Rataj says that of $13 million worth of work divvied up between Walbridge subcontractors, $10 million went to companies that weren't Ferguson. 

10:57--Rataj raging: Rataj is suggesting that Beeckman was trying to confuse the jury with some of his earlier testimony, saying that text messages  Beeckman testified to regarding businessman Gary Torgow of the Sterling Group were taken out of context.  

"Were you trying to mislead the jury?" Rataj said. 

No, Beeckman said adamently.  

Rataj then showed Beeckman notes from an interview Rataj conducted with Gary Torgow.  But it turns out that those weren't Beeckman's notes, they were another agent's.  It's not clear right now, at least to me, where Rataj is going with this. 

10:54--We're Back: We're underway again, with FBI agent Robert Beeckman still on the stand and Ferguson lawyer Mike Rataj cross-examining.  Just a heads up: court ends a little early today at Noon.  

10:48--Snack time: While I was down in the snack shop here at federal court, I ran into defendant Bobby Ferguson.  We exchanged pleasantries, and I remembered that earlier on in this trial, I paid for his bottled water when Ferguson was told by the vendor that he couldn't break his $20.  

I'm sure paying me back has just slipped his mind, because Ferguson is the only guy paying for his own lawyers for this case and he's not known for being cheap. But in case he's reading the blog, it's been 41 days since I gave him that loan. I don't charge interest.  

10:28--Break time: Judge Nancy Edmunds has called for a break, and not a moment too soon.  A few more minutes of testimony, and Rataj might have challenged Beeckman to an arm wrestling match.  

Actually, that'd be a lot of fun to watch. 

10:24--Play nice, fellas: Things usually get interesting when Mike Rataj's cross-examining someone. Rataj is showing some bid tabulation documents from Walbridge, which show potential subcontractors. Rataj says that  it shows Ferguson was the lowest Bidder. Beeckman says that Rataj isn't showing all of the pages, and wants him to show the next page. 

Rataj insists that he's showing the last page. 

"Why don't you give it to me, I'll show it to you," Beeckman said. 

Rataj declined. 

10:10--Follow up letter: Earlier in this trial, we saw a letter written by a Walbridge official saying they were persuaded by a highly placed Kilpatrick administration official to hire Bobby Ferguson as its subcontractor, even though he was the fourth lowest bidder.  

Earlier testimony suggested that Ferguson was outraged by this letter and was fearful of its implications. 

Now, Rataj is showing a "follow up" note sent by the same Walbridge employee, which served as something of a retraction.

"I was in error in some of my statement," he wrote, going on to say that Ferguson was awarded a portion of the work based on monetary considerations. 

"I hope this clarifies errors or misstatements I may have made," he wrote.

"May" was crossed out. 

10:02--Mine, not yours: Rataj is showing an agreement between Ferguson and Walbridge, which he says shows that Ferguson was in charge of the Patton Park project (the $10 million job that Walbridge wanted the 5% fee on).  Rataj's point: Walbridge acknowledged that Patton Park was Ferguson's job: so why do they get to claim $500,000 (5% of 10 million).

9:53--Something for nothing: Rataj is alleging that Walbridge wanted to be paid for work that Ferguson actually performed. 

"Walbridge wanted half a million dollars to do nothing," Rataj said. 

Rataj explains that Walbridge wanted a 5% fee on $10 million worth of work that Ferguson Enterprises was performing.  FBI agent Beeckman says this was standard: Walbridge was the contract's manager, while Ferguson was their subcontractor. 

9:42--Typical talk: Showing an e-mail from consultant Bernard Parker to a city official, Rataj is suggesting that contact between contractors and city officials is not unusual.  He's doing this to suggest to jurors that Ferguson's texts with the Detroit Recreation Department Supervisor were not unusual, nor improper.  

9:35--Protests: Rataj is reminding the jury that when Walbridge was awarded the Baby Creek and Patton Park project--about a $75 million job--many competitors protested. The city investigated thoroughly, Rataj is trying to show jurors, and still deemed that Walbridge deserved the contract. 

Presumably, the point here is that Kilpatrick had nothing to do with the city picking the Walbridge/Ferguson duo. 

9:20--Ferguson's turn: Ferguson attorney Mike Rataj is up now to cross-examine Beeckman. 

9:18--Total pay: Ferguson was paid $13.5 million from those Walbridge projects (Baby Creek and Patton Park). 

9:15--Need help: Now some texts from Ferguson to Kilpatrick.

Ferguson: Baby creek, I told you I would call on you when I need help, help, fucking victor, I don't need DWSD to set in on the bid opening. 

Kilpatrick: Will call in 30 mins.

Ferguson: Thanks, but dnt call in the meeting w/ Walbridge now.  I find you later. 

Victor, says Beeckman, was a reference to DWSD chief Victor Mercado. Baby Creek was the name of a project Walbridge was working on with Ferguson. 

9:10--More texts: Beeckma n isn't wasting any time, showing some more texts right off the bat. They're between Ferguson and Vincent Anwunah, a Detroit recreation department supervisor. Ferguson asks Anuwnah to fax him a letter.  

Ferguson: I am going to see the boss at 10AM today, to show him what's going on, after he gave a direct order.  

Anwunah: Ok, I will fax as soon as possible.  Also, I would like us to talk things over and brainstorm on this.

Ferguson: Ok. 

"The Boss," Beeckman says, was Kilpatrick.  The two were discussing Ferguson's concern over contractor Walbridge Aldinger's percentage fee on a city project.  Ferguson and Walbridge were having a dispute, which was discussed yesterday, Beeckman said. 

9:06--Home stretch: We're hopefully entering the final stretch of the prosecution's case.  Word on the street is they expect nine more days of testimony before giving the defense their chance.  We expect the defense to take about a month to complete their case. 

9:02--Welcome back: It's day 54, and we expect to see some new witnesses today.  FBI agent Bob Beeckman should be back on the stand when we get going shortly.  Yesterday, he testified briefly about some newly introduced text messages.  There was a flurry of texts released,  including one where Ferguson complained of "typical white folk shit," which you can read here.

Have a question or comment for Ross?  E-mail him at rjones@wxyz.com.  You can also find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter. 

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