Day 39: Texts' meanings debated as Kilpatrick corruption trial centers on water contracts

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Follow along with day 39 of the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial as 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones blogs from federal court:

12:55--The end: And that's all, folks.  But not for Mr. Kilpatrick!  He's got a 2pm hearing in Judge Groner's courtroom at Wayne County Circuit Court.  We'll be streaming that live here on WXYZ.com.

12:45--Getting in the weeds: I'm not sure how we got here, but Jim Thomas just suggested that some city contractors have "ethnic relationships."  That drew the ire of the prosecutors, who objected to Thomas's claim. 

"I don't even know what an ethnic relationship is," Edmunds said.

"You're an Indian and I'm an Indian?  Move along, please" Edmunds said.

12:21--Cookie: This may be the headline of the day: Bobby Ferguson calls his wife "Cookie."  It's an interesting little tidbit we just learned from a Ferguson text.

Not exactly what you'd expect from a guy who's been portrayed as a relentless, sometimes intimidating individual. 

12:20--Not punctuation fans: The Mayor and Ferguson--and many of us, for that matter--don't always use punctuation in our text messages and e-mails.  Because of that, Thomas is trying to argue that it's not clear whether the Mayor is saying something, or asking something with some of his texts.

"Is that a question? Or is that a declaration," he said about one text.

"Can't tell," Paskiewicz responded.

12:12--"Holla": Thomas continues to pick away at the text messages introduced in court, saying that they're not placed in the proper context of the rest of the day's conversation.

Thomas also said that some of the looser, more casual speech was even more unclear.

"You're not a mind reader," Thomas said.

"You can't say you understand what was being said by certain phrases like 'holla' and 'lol,' " he said to agent Paskiewicz.

Sorry for the delay in blog posts. Had to run outside and do a quick live shot for our 7 Action News at Noon viewers.

11:37--Defense up: Kilpatrick lawyer Jim Thomas is up now, and he's very quickly going after Paskiewicz's interpretation of some of these texts.  Indeed, many of them are open to interpretation.  Filled with spelling and grammatical errors, they would not make a 5th grade English teacher proud.

11:31--Change orders: Bobby Ferguson took advantage of almost $8 million in change orders for two contracts, we're learning.  Change orders are submitted when a job runs into unforeseen problems that cause the price of work to increase. 

11:26--Kilpatrick loses oversight: In February 2006, Kilpatrick lost his power as the special administrator over the water department.

11:23--Talking with Beatty: The texts are coming fast and furiously, folks, and it's hard to take them down and make sense of each of them, while also putting them into some context.  But in some we just saw, Bobby Ferguson is texting the Mayor's then Chief of Staff Christine Beatty about information he's trying to learn about a city contract. 

"Let me talk to Mr. Mayor," Beatty responds.

"Ok, get back to with me," Ferguson says.

The EPA agent on the stand admits, though, that she wasn't able to figure out exactly what contractor the two were discussing.

11:12--Upset with Victor: We'll probably never hear from Victor Mercado in this trial, and that's a shame.  According to a 2003 text from a Kilpatrick aide to Ruth Carter, it's revealed that the Mayor didn't want to extend Mercado's contract.

"Ruth, Mayor KMK does not want to give a contract extension to Victor. Glad I Checked!  No new assignment for you," she wrote.

Mercado did stay on for several more years, though.

11:07--More texts: New texts we're seeing are between Kwame Kilpatrick, his dad and Bobby Ferguson.  It appears they're discussing water contracts.

"The real problem with DWSD is the evaluation committee.  Warren has some ideas how you can proceed.  CN we meet wth him tomorrow evening?" Bernard Kilpatrick wrote to his son. 

Warren is Warren Evans, said agent Paskiewicz, who served on the water board.

11:00--Back at it: These breaks are getting longer and longer each time, and Judge Edmunds isn't a fan of it.  She's told the lawyers and defendants to be back sooner next time. For a trial that's already 4 weeks behind schedule, surely she's counting the minutes each day that aren't spend on testimony.

10:35--Short break: Time for the morning break.  Stay with us.

10:30--Charts: We're seeing some organizational charts right now.  Essentially, these all show that various power brokers in the water department all had to report to the mayor, thanks to the federal oversight of the city's water department. 

We're also seeing documents that reiterate Kilpatrick's power as a special administrator for the water department.  This is a power that Dennis Archer had before him, and Coleman Young before him.

10:11--Ferguson paid: He made $20.8 million on contract 1368 (the Inland contract), including work he did on the sinkhole we talked about earlier.  Ferguson was paid, according to Paskiewicz, $3.1 million for that. 

Other minority contractors who were listed on Inland's original bid (remember, Ferguson Enterprises never was) received far less: each took in less than $500,000. 

10:05--Kilpatrick in control: The jury just saw a signed amendment by Kilpatrick, ordering that the City of Detroit enter into a contract with Inland Waters (this is the $50 million deal that Bobby Ferguson worked on, allegedly, after Kilpatrick told Soave to hire him).  The order makes it clear that Kilpatrick, as a special administrator over water contracts, calls the shots and has full control over water contracts.

This could be an issue for the defense, who argued earlier that it was the Detroit City Council that controlled contracts being approved.

10:00--We're back: And everyone seems to be in good health.  Whew.

9:50--Short break: We're taking a brief break here.  Hopefully no lawyers take a nose dive.

9:48--Held up: As part of the feds' oversight of the Water Department, the mayor was granted power to approve amendments (or work).  According to an e-mail from a Soave Enterprises official to Kathleen McCann (who we heard from earlier), an amendment was being held up by the Mayor, who McCann said was known to them as "QK."

"Info from Bernard Parker, who talked to QK during the weekend and Amendment is held up until FEI is satisfied," wrote the executive.

FEI is Ferguson Enterprises Incorporated. 

9:39--Talking with contractor: Days later, the Mayor asked Ferguson if he'd talked with that contractor working on the sinkhole. 

"I am going to talk to him to day, it's the same he wonts e to workfor him, just let victor know I geno makes 2.00 fei needs to make 2.00 also you will look at the invoices to make sure.." Ferguson wrote.

Again, lots of typos and spelling issues to wade through here.  But the feds say Ferguson said the contractor (Geno) wanted him to "work for him." 

9:32--Job for Ferguson? After a sink hole opened up in Detroit, putting homes and lives at risk, one text message seems to imply (or at least the U.S. Attorney says it implies) that Ferguson was looking for a way to get in on some work with the company who had a contract to repair the hole.

"We need to mee on how, I move in, I got a great idea sir, holla in the am," Ferguson texted Kilpatrick.

If you've read the blog before, you'll know that Ferguson's text messages are filled with typos.  Paskiewicz says Ferguson left off the "t" in "meet." 

9:16--Upset over Soave: It's clear from at least one message from November 2002 that Bobby Ferguson was upset with Soave. 

"...what we need to talk about is that (expletive) soave," Ferguson messaged Kilpatrick.

"Yeah I'll holla later about that," Kilpatrick responded.

According to Paszkiewicz, that text message was sent during the same time Ferguson and Soave were tussling over contract negotiations.

In August 2004, another Ferguson text indicates he's trying to speak with Tony Soave.

"Tonys very smart he didn't call me back Kathleen did, asking me what was the meting I requesting pertaining to. Holla later," Ferguson wrote to Kilpatrick.

Paszkiewicz said this text was sent around the same time that Soave Enterprises had issues with Ferguson's work product.  10 days later, the City's Water and Sewerage Department put a stop order on Ferguson's work because of his company's performance.

9:14--Soave texts: Paszkiewicz is explaining texts that she reviewed between Bobby Ferguson and Kwame Kilpatrick during Ferguson's negotiations (and struggles) with Tony Soave and his company.

A 2002 message from Ferguson to the Mayor asked: "When do you meet with Soave?"

Mayor Kilpatrick responded, "Don't know, will holla later."

9:05--Agent back: EPA Special Agent Carol Paszkiewicz is currently testifying, making what feels like her fifth or sixth appearance as a witness.  She's going to "tie up some loose ends" on the water contracts chapter that has been the most recent focus of the trial.

9:03--Full day: Kwame Kilpatrick is on a tour of Southeast Michigan courtrooms today. He's due in Wayne County Circuit Court at 2PM today for a hearing on his book proceeds.  I'll be in the courtroom, and we'll be streaming it live here at WXYZ.com. 

9:00--Welcome back: It's day 39 of trial, and we expect that the feds will be switching gears today from where we last left off on Monday. The last witness we heard from was former Soave Enterprises Vice-President Kathleen McCann, whose cross-examination was put on hold after Ferguson lawyer Susan Van Dusen took a nasty fall.

With her sidelined for a while, we're hearing that the U.S. Attorney is moving to another chapter of the trial.  We'll have to wait and see which one, exactly. 

When Van Dusen returns, we expect McCann's cross-examination will conclude.

Have a question or comment for Ross?  E-mail him at rjones@wxyz.com.  You can also follow him on Twitter @RossJones7 or like him on Facebook.

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