Day 17: Bobby Ferguson used friends to funnel campaign cash to Kilpatrick, says ex-girlfriend

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Earlier today, 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones blogged from the Kilpatrick corruption trial.  Follow along below:

12:51--Say this: Darlene says she was told by Bobby Ferguson, if she was asked, to say that the money orders she was given were actually hers, not Ferguson's.  She says she was afraid to lie, but Ferguson said not to worry.  If anything went wrong, it would "fall back" on her sister Renee. 

12:47--Same story: Darlene, like Josephine, says she was asked to sign blank money orders. "Kilpatrick for Mayor" was later filled in on the money order, in what appears to be very similar handwriting as the previous money orders we've seen made out to the mayor's campaign fund.

Darlene also signed checks totaling $3,400--which just happens to be the legal limit for an individual's campaign contribution.

12:45--Another sister: And here comes sister #3.  Darlene Jefferson is the next witness.  Wanna bet she'll have similar testimony? 

12:41--Reimbursed anyway: Even though Josephine didn't use her own money to pay for those money orders, she says she was later reimbursed for the $3,400 in money orders she signed her name to.  She said the refunds came after she talked to the FBI.  Perhaps an effort at a cover-up? 

12:36--Given money orders: Josephine says she was presented with money orders by her sister Renee, and was told they came from Bobby Ferguson. Her sister Darlene was given some, too, she said. Johnson says she signed  her name to four money orders totaling $3,400, but that someone else made them out to "Kilpatrick for Mayor."

Josephine says she's not sure who filled-in the money orders, but she says the money was not hers.

12:33--Next witness: The government's next and possibly last witness for the day is Josephine Johnson.  She is a sister of Renee Newsome, who just testified.  Newsome is Ferguson's ex-girlfriend.

12:20--Not truthful with FBI: When contacted by the FBI about her campaign donations, Newsome testified she said the money donated was hers.  She says this was not a truthful statement, but she made it because Ferguson told her to "stick to my story."

12:10--Sign these: Newsome says Ferguson asked her and her friends to make out money orders to Kwame Kilpatrick's campaign and sign them.  Newsome says she had people in her home sign some of the money orders.

12:05--Next witness: Renee Newsome is the next witness. She dated Bobby Ferguson for seven years.

11:50--Turn this into money orders: Brown said he cashed more than $41,606 in checks made out to Ferguson from Feribous Processing and Training in 2004.  Brown says Ferguson directed him to turn those checks into $3,400 money orders--the highest legal donation that an individual can make to a candidate's campaign.

11:40--Next witness:  George Brown is the fed's next witness.  He worked for Ferguson Enterprises (Bobby Ferguson's company) for 8 years.

11:30--Reversal? The feds are trying to show that Kilpatrick did a 180 after he received gifts and cash from Rutherford.  They showed a 2001 debate where Kilpatrick said that Detroit shouldn't put a casino on the riverfront.  But they followed that up with a 2004 text message from Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller, saying that he'd just met with Jon Rutherford and that a casino representative wanted to meet with him about "the riverfront piece." Kilpatrick responded, "Cool!."

11:09--Ferguson's support: Responding to a text message he received from Kilpatrick saying he needed a million dollars at his next fundraiser, Ferguson said: "I am your soldier."

11:05--Greedy: Forwarding a message he received from Christine Beatty, Kwame Kilpatrick sent Bobby Ferguson an update on his campaign fundraising. He told Ferguson that his campaign had raised more than $1.7 million.

Ferguson responded: "Hell you know we are greedy."

11:00--Fighting mad: Right now, lawyers for both sides are arguing whether or not its allowable for an FBI agent Beeckman to offer his interpretation of what some of the text messages he's obtained really mean.  The government says he's offering an informed opinion, while the defense says it's pure conjecture. 

The always colorful and often upset Mike Rataj (who represents Ferguson) can be seen with a scowl on his face, taking his glasses off in disgust and turning various shades of red. 

10:45--Break time: Stay with us.  Back shortly.

10:40--So, what does this mean? So far all of the texts, checks and credit card records have backed up what Jon Rutherford testified to yesterday about showering Kilpatrick with lots of gifts and cash, as well as his claim that Kilpatrick was receptive to his casino idea. But the key here will be whether or not the jury believes there was a quid-pro-quo between the two. 

Yesterday Rutherford said he gave Kilpatrick all the gifts for help with his casino, but he also said today that there was no expectation between the two that Kilpatrick would ultimately deliver.

10:35--Lots of discussion: The government has shown a number of texts between Kilpatrick aides, and sometimes Kilpatrick, about arranging meetings that appear to be related to Rutherford's riverfront casino plans. One came from an office secretary to Derrick Miller, Kilpatrick's aide, saying, "Boss Guy from venetian wants to do a quick dinner Monday night. Is that cool?? We have the time"

The Venetian is a Casino in Las Vegas. 

10:26--Lots of texts: FBI agent Beeckman is talking about scores of texts which seem to show the relationship between Bernard Kilpatrick, Jon Rutherford and even Kwame Kilpatrick.

"Are you still trying to go to Vegas this weekend?" Bernard asked his son.

"Steelman and Jon Rutherford would le (sp) to talk to you. I can hook you up at Green Vaalley (sp) Resort..let me know.." 

Steelman is a Las Vegas casino architect.

In a different message from Kilpatrick's sister Ayanna to her father Bernard, she writes:

"The Next Vision Foundation is in dire straights for a minute.  I won't get my $1240 paycheck this week.  Need to hit you up for anything between 500-1000 radar.  And keep us on your radar with the Rutherfords and Runcos of the world."

Runco was another client of Bernard Kilpatrick's. Ayanna Kilpatrick was seeking sponsorships for her non-profit Vision Fund's next scholarship fundraiser.

10:10--Wanted their suits: A text message sent from mayoral bodyguard Loronzo Jones to Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller in July 2002 reads: "Hey Mr. Mayor did we get our clothes in yet from Dubai." It's not clear why Jones addressed Miller as "Mr. Mayor." 

10:01--G-man returns: Back for his third act on the witness stand is FBI agent Bob Beeckman, the stoic government investigator who's headed up the bureau's probe into Kilpatrick and company.

9:53--Not unusual: The Community Coalition tried to get particular candidates elected all the time, points out Bernard Kilpatrick's lawyer John Shea.  And that's true, Johnson said.  It was the very point of his organization. 

9:47--Checks to Community Coalition: The jury is being shown checks we saw yesterday from Jon Rutherford's company to the Community Coalition. They total $87,275. However, Johnson said that Kilpatrick was at the "top of the slate" that the Coalition was putting out to voters.  The candidate that headed up the slate was supposed to pay the costs associated with supporting their candidacy, but in this case it was paid by Rutherford.

9:44--Rutherford paid: Johnson said Rutherford gave him an envelope with a $7,275 check to pay his poll workers in 2001.  Johnson was startled, because the banks were closed on election day and he didn't think he could cash the check, but they arranged to have it cashed at a grocery store.

9:37--Talking with Bernard:  In 2001, Johnson says he spoke with Bernard Kilpatrick about his son running for mayor.  He said he wanted the Community Coalition's help in getting Kwame elected. Johnson's organization had 100 poll workers who would work from 7AM to 8PM, and be compensated $80 for their work.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Doeh is trying to establish how Johnson's non-profit could pay all those workers with its limited funding.

9:33--Next witness: Ernest Johnson is the government's next witness.  He's the head of the Community Coalition, which at the time was a non-profit fund that funneled $97,000 to Kilpatrick through Jon Rutherford. The Community Coalition help candidates get elected, and also gives away things like turkeys to the needy. It is now a political action committee (PAC). 

9:21--Suit time: Kilpatrick left in the middle of a dinner with high-ranking Dubai officials to say he "had to go get fitted for suits," Chebbani testified.  He said he was surprised that the mayor would leave the important dinner in the middle of the meal. 

Yesterday, you'll recall, Jon Rutherford testified that Kilpatrick asked him for $10,000 to buy suits in Dubai.  Rutherford complied.

9:18--Next witness: Ahman Chebbani, the owner of a tax services company, is testifying about a 2002 trip that he, Kilpatrick and others took to Dubai to establish a "sister city" there.

9:12--No demands: How's this for surprising?  We expected Kilpatrick lawyer Jim Thomas to cross-examine Rutherford for a while, but he asked only a few questions.  The most critical, no doubt, was this one about whether his payments and gifts to Kilpatrick were forced.

"That was freely given by you without any expectation of reward or remuneration," Thomas asked.

Rutherford agreed.  And with that, he's done testifying.

9:05--Bernard did work: Rutherford told defense lawyer John Shea that Bernard Kilpatrick did actually perform work for his $10,000 a month, like finding out who owned property he was interested in developing.  Rutherford says he hired other third-party consultants, too, not just Bernard Kilpatrick.

8:57--Coleman Young: Asst. U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow is asking Rutherford about testimony he gave before the grand jury more than two years ago, but which he says he can't recall today.  In the grand jury testimony, Rutherford recalled a conversation he had with Bernard Kilpatrick at Flood's Bar in Detroit.  Speaking about former Detroit mayor Coleman Young, Rutherford testified that Kilpatrick told him, "Coleman Young got paid, and I'm going to get paid too." 

Rutherford didn't doubt that he said that at the time, but couldn't recall the conversation in court today.

8:55--We're back: And starting a little early this morning.  Jon Rutherford, the one-time Kilpatrick supporter and major donor, is still on the stand.

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