BLOG: Tethered Kilpatrick listens as defense paints ex-friend as greedy liar

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Follow along with all the developments in the Kilpatrick Corruption Trial as 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones blogs from federal court:

12:43--The end: Thanks for joining us today folks.  It was another interesting day.  Expect another one Monday, when Ferguson lawyer Gerald Evelyn gets his first chance to size-up Miller.

12:42--Thomas done: And with that, Thomas is finished with cross-examination.

12:40--Harping on plea: Thomas continues to play up Miller's plea, pointing out that it's important to Miller that the feds be "satisfied" with his testimony. 

"All I can do is cooperate," Miller said.

12:30--Family first: Thomas asks Miller if family is the most important thing to him.  He responds that it's one of them.  I think he was expecting Miller to say yes, so he could argue that he's hoping for the lightest sentence possible so he can spend more time with them.

"The reason why I'm here is because one, yes I'm going to be testifying in hopes that...my sentence will be less, absolutely," Miller said.

Thomas called the federal charges "a train coming down the tracks," and said that Miller wanted badly to make a deal that would save him from a proverbial fatal collision.

12:24--Plea deal: In perhaps a sign that Thomas's cross-examination is winding down, he's now asking Miller about his plea deal with the feds, which allows him a lighter sentence if he helps the government with his testimony.

We've seen all of the defense lawyers bring up plea deals like this with the witnesses who've testified against Kilpatrick and company.  It may be the defense's strongest piece of evidence to raise doubt about their testimony, as it allows them to argue the witnesses are just saying what will make the government happiest.

12:19--Raising doubt: If Miller wanted the hand-off to Kilpatrick to be a secret, asks Thomas, why did he give him the money in the very same building he received it?

"You testify that he came to a public place to get money from a person who, supposedly, he told you to get money from...You bring him to the very place where you don't want him to be seen getting the money?" he said.

Miller said it just happened that way.

12:15--Asian Village guys: Thomas is asking Miller about perhaps his most damaging piece of testimony: that Kilpatrick asked Miller to go "get some money from those Asian Village guys" for him. 

Miller says he's unsure if the Asian Village restaurant development was up and running at the time he says he went inside to get the money for Kilpatrick.

"Where did he give you the cash?"

"I don't remember the exact location of the building, it might have been a room called 'The Dragon Room,' which was a closed location, so maybe somewhere in there," Miller said.

12:13--We're back: Thomas continues to question Miller.

12:04--Short break: Final break of the day.  Stay with us.

11:54--Cooked up: Thomas is asking Miller about a lawyer who attached her name to Atrium Financial's official filing so that Miller would be hidden as its real owner. 

Thomas says Miller "cooked up" the idea to use her as a front for the company, and Miller agrees, saying that he wrote up doctored records after the company received a grand jury subpoena so he could again conceal his involvement in Atrium.

Again, Thomas's message to jurors: this guy lied for years.  You think he's telling the truth now?

11:46--Secret payment: Thomas says, and Miller agrees, that he set up a company called "Atrium Financial" where he placed the payment he received from the Shumake commission. He says he didn't want the pension board members to find out, fearing it could hurt the deal and make him look bad.

11:42--Fight: Thomas says Miller and Shumake got into a "physical fight" outside of Mosaic restaurant in Greektown because "you weren't getting what you expected" out of the commission.

Miller says he never touched Shumake, but says: "I was hot."

11:35--Blurry: Miller says his recollection on how much he was set to make from the Shumake deal, as well as when he stood to make it, is "blurry."

"Well I want to un-blur it," Thomas said.

Miller says he thought about getting a commission from Shumake before he left the city, which is why he sought approval from the City of Detroit's Corporation Counsel. He said he was given the green light, but even then he insists he wasn't certain he would ultimately receive a commission.   The commission would have been $500,000. 

Both men are speaking over each other. 

Thomas is suggesting that Miller was making money long before he left the City, and shouldn't be trusted by jurors.

11:30--Hot in here?  In the last 2 minutes, Thomas and Miller have traded jabs, Miller has rolled his eyes, and Judge Edmunds has raised her voice at Thomas, who's trying to throw Miller off his game.

It's related to a confusing point that Thomas is trying to make related to when Miller advocated for Shumake's deal.  Thomas has shown Miller previous notes or testimony (it's not clear which) that he says indicate Miller's story today is different now from what it used to be.

Earlier, Miller testified he didn't introduce any pension board members to Shumake (who sought an investment from them).  Today, though, he said he might have. 

It's fair to say that there's some real tension between Miller and Thomas.

11:13--Making money: Thomas suggests that Miller introduced Cullen to Shumake because he had an expectation that he could make money off of a potential deal between the two. But Miller pushed back, saying that wasn't his intention at the beginning.

Miller says he only looked for a commission from Cullen after he left city hall in 2007.

11:11--Shumake: Now the conversation is turning to Robert Shumake.

Miller says that he introduced GM's Matt Cullen to Robert Shumake, who worked at Inheritance Capital Group.  ICG was interested in purchasing properties from GM and leasing them back to the company.  The money to do it would come, in part, from the city's pension board.

11:05--Cut out: Thomas suggests that Miller cut out a businessman who was affiliated with Jones, Lang, LaSalle, and was apparently supposed to be paid, like Miller.  But Miller doesn't agree that he was cut out. 

Thomas asked Miller why he arranged the deal with Jones, Lang, LaSalle.

"What was in it for you?" Thomas asked.

"Money," Miller said without hesitation.

10:57--First time: Jim Thomas is asking Miller about the first time he took money while he was a city official. 

"I don't recall exactly when," Miller said. 

He said it was either money from real estate firm Jones, Lang, LaSalle or Cobo Hall businessman Karl Kado.

10:55-Resuming: Back to testimony now.

10:50--Chipping away: While we're on break, I'll just offer some observations. Jim Thomas's cross-examination has picked-up since yesterday, when he was more plodding.  He's chipping away at Miller now, and is covering more ground than he did yesterday.

10:30--Short break: Stay with us, folks. 

10:25--Money for Miller: Miller acknowledges, again, that he often accepted money from Kado in $100 denominations. It was in the thousands, he said. He said he doesn't remember how it was packaged.

"He felt he had you in his pocket, so to speak," Thomas said, referring to earlier comments made by Miller to the feds.

Miller said he didn't recall saying that, but Thomas is now showing him what appears to be notes of an FBI interview.

"I don't know if i said it like that," Miller said.

10:21--Specifics: Finally, Thomas is getting to some of the specifics of Miller's earlier testimony. First on the list are $10,000 in cash that he says Cobo Hall businessman Karl Kado gave to Miller for Kilpatrick's campaign.   Miller said he gave the money to Christine Beatty or Kilpatrick and isn't sure where it went after that.

10:15--Let's meet: Following his indictment, Miller arranged additional meetings with the feds where, he says, he came clean.  Of course, Jim Thomas has a different spin: he thinks Miller was honest the first time, and was only then (post-indictment) looking to make a deal with the feds, telling the stories they wanted to hear in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence.

Miller has signed a plea deal and agreed to cooperate with the feds.

10:08--Not honest: Miller says he withheld some of the more damaging information from the feds during his interviews with the FBI, hoping they would not find out.

"There were things I left out in the interview, yes, as it relates to your client in particular," Miller said.

10:04--Minimize the damage: Thomas is going hard at Miller's state of mind during his meetings with the feds. 

"You weren't sitting down with them out of the goodness of your heart, you were hoping to get something in return, weren't you?" Thomas said.

After tussling with Thomas, Miller acknowledged that he was hoping the trouble he was in "could be minimized" by meeting with the feds.

10:00--Still charged: After his first five meetings with the feds (which all took place in July and August of 2010), Miller was still indicted on December 15, 2010 along with both Kilpatricks, Ferguson and Mercado. 

Miller acknowledged that the feds told him they sought indictment during his interviews. 

9:53--Let's make a deal: Miller is talking about his five meetings with the FBI about this case, and subsequent deals made with the feds if he agreed to testify.

"You were trying to make a deal with the government to avoid prosecution," Thomas said.

Miller responded that he doesn't know details about his lawyer's legal strategy. 

"Are you trying to hide behind the attorney-client privilege?" shot Thomas.

"I'm not trying to hide behind anything," Miller said.

When instructed to answer Thomas's question, Miller said his only intentions were to find out what the feds "had and what they knew."

9:36--Miller apologizes: Earlier in testimony, we mentioned that the feds withdrew an exhibit that they flat out made a mistake about.  A $34,000 check written by Rutherford's company DPR Management to a group called "Next Generation Detroit" apparently threw the feds off.  They confused it with a Political Action Committee (PAC) affiliated with the Kilpatrick called "Generations PAC." 

When the government presented the evidence to Miller earlier this week, he agreed that it was a payment to Kilpatrick's PAC.  Except, of course, it wasn't.  Confronted with his error, Miller acknowledged the two organizations aren't related and that he, like the feds, confused them.

"Are you going to apologize?" asked Jim Thomas.

"I can apologize if that's what you'd like," Miller said.

No doubt Thomas wants jurors to consider whether Miller is just being a "yes man" who will agree with anything the feds put in front of him. 

9:30--Disclosed, on purpose?  Turns out that the Civic Fund did disclose, perhaps accidentally, the donation from Rutherford's homeless shelter.  Thomas maintains that this shows the Civic Fund was not trying to hide anything, but Miller disagrees.

"It wasn't supposed to be filed.  It was a mistake," Miller said.

Miller testified earlier that the Civic Fund board members (of which he was one) along with Kilpatrick decided they would not disclose donors to the public. They're required to supply the donor list to the IRS, though. 

9:15--Civic Fund: Thomas is continuing to focus on the non-profit Kilpatrick Civic Fund.  He's asking Miller about the disclosure that a Detroit homeless shelter owned by Jon Rutherford made a $50,000 donation to the fund.

This was reported by the Detroit Free Press around the start of Kilpatrick's first term, and raised questions about the Civic Fund.  It is widely believed that this donation caught the attention of the IRS, and ultimately led to the federal probe that's brought us all to this courtroom.

9:12--Tethered: The former Mayor, for at least the second time, is wearing a tether on his leg.  It's a result of the news that he accepted a $2,000 wire transfer (which he says was a gift), but failed to disclose it to the Department of Corrections.

While he's not been found to be in violation of his parole, the tether is a cautionary measure that will remain on Kilpatrick until their investigation is over.  Who knows what will happen then.

9:00--Day 52: Welcome back for the final day of testimony for the week.  On the stand still is Kilpatrick's ex-aide and friend Derrick Miller.  He has testified that Kilpatrick took bribes while in office, was paranoid of the feds and sought out city work for his friend, contractor  Bobby Ferguson.

Today, Miller will continue to be cross-examined by Kilpatrick lawyer Jim Thomas.

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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