Day 3: Detroit cop says Bobby Ferguson threatened his family, told him to dismiss tickets

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Earlier today, 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones blogged the third day of the Kwame Kilpatrick criminal trial.  Follow his blog below:

12:47--Mrs. Fountain will be the next witness: The government's next witness is Officer Fountain's wife.  With only a few minutes left until we break at 1PM for the day, though, we won't have enough time to get to her testimony. Court is off tomorrow for Yom Kippur, so we'll see you back here Thursday. 

12:33--Cross-examination: Under intense cross-examination from Ferguson attorney Gerald Evelyn, Fountain is staying composed and refusing to raise his voice, even as Evelyn raises his.  The lawyer is trying to raise inconsistencies between Fountain's testimony before the grand jury and today in open court.

He has so far tried to force Fountain to admit that he was threatened not by Ferguson, but by one of Kilpatrick's bodyguards.  Fountain maintains it was Ferguson. 

One possible inconsistency that has been found: Fountain said he was contacted by the press, but told them "no comment" about the incident. But Evelyn says Fountain told an FBI agent that he did speak to the press about the incident.

12:19--Ferguson threatened me: Fountain says when he came to court for a hearing on Ferguson's tickets, Ferguson spoke to him outside of the courtroom, flanked with members of Kilpatrick's security team. 

Fountain said Ferguson told him that it would be in his family's interest that the tickets be dismissed.  Fountain said he felt threatened and asked the judge to dismiss the tickets.

11:37--Ferguson slapped: Fountain says he slapped Ferguson with environmental tickets in 2001 for violations, like allowing litter to pile up outside his offices that led to a rat infestation, allowing hazardous conditions around his offices like sharp objects and broken bricks, and failing to cut weeds. 

Will be interesting to see how this witness fits into the government's case.

11:33--Next witness: The government's next witness is Officer Michael Fountain, a dispatcher for the Detroit Police Department.  He wrote tickets for environmental violations in 2001.  

11:28--No doubt: Even though he's not clear on all the details asked of him by defense lawyers (dates, times, locations), Clift told Assistant US Attorney Michael Bullotta that he has no doubt he delivered $90,000 from Ferguson to Kilpatrick. 

And with that--after 2 hours and 30 minutes--Clift's testimony is over.

11:23--Still friends: For what it's worth, Clift still seems like he cares very much about his friend the former mayor, even though he's testifying for the government in this case.

Asked why he never asked for a cut of the $90,000, Clift said it wasn't necessary, adding that he "loves" Kilpatrick.

Throughout his testimony, Clift has spoken softly and shown little expression. He appears to be taking no joy in testifying against his old college friend.

11:14--Clift's testimony: In another legal maneuver to question Clift's credibility, Jim Thomas asked the witness whether his testimony was bought by the government in exchange for his legal immunity: a promise that the government wouldn't charge him in this case.  Clift says it was not, and that he only received the immunity agreement at his mother's urging.  As we've said earlier, Clift's mom is a lawyer.

10:55--Happy birthday, boss: That roughly $25,000 Rolex watch that Kilpatrick's staff bought him for his birthday?  It was sold to them by Clift, he said in court today.  Clift also said that Kilpatrick purchased a bracelet from him several years ago that he paid for in installments. Apparently, Kilpatrick was taking a long time to make the payments, and the supplier who sold it to Clift was worried.  

In fact at one point in 2004, Kilpatrick owed more than $6,000 on the bracelet (which cost up to $15,000), and said he could pay half on the spot, and half the following week.  Eventually, he fulfilled the balance.

"Money wasn't easy for him to come by back in 2004," Thomas said.

Clift agreed.

10:50--Client's background: Thomas is asking Clift whether he knew if any of his clients were drug dealers.  Clift is a high-end jeweler. He said he didn't ask many questions about his clients' backgrounds.

"I want their business," Clift said.

10:47--More cross-examination: Rataj's questioning of Clift is finished, but Kilpatrick's lawyer Jim Thomas is now questioning him.  He asked Clift whether he ever saw Ferguson give Kilpatrick money.  He said he did not.

10:28--15-minute break: We're on a brief break here.  Stay with us.  We'll be resuming shortly.

10:22--Why use a middle man: In his grand jury testimony from years ago on this matter, Clift told the grand jurors that "if they're using me, they must not want anyone to know about (the money)."

Rataj's response: if it was such a secret, why wouldn't Feguson just give Kilpatrick the money himself? 

10:18--Rataj ratchets up the heat: As Clift's testimony stretches into 75-minutes, Rataj is continuing to assail

the credibility of the government's seventh witness.

"You've used words like 'probably,' 'could have' and 'not sure,' " Rataj said, pointing out that there are no hotel bills that correspond with when Clift says he was in Detroit to give Kilpatrick some of the $90,000 cash.

10:03--"Probably:" In his grand jury testimony, Clift apparently testified that he "probably" put the $90,000 in cash in his vacuum cleaner.  Rataj grilled Clift on the fact that he's not sure.  Clift said that's where he believes he put the money two years ago when he first received it.

Again, Rataj's trying to establish some credibility issues here.  Will it work?  Or will jurors think it's much ado about nothing?

9:53--More legal maneuvering: Rataj is playing a nice game of charades in the courtroom.  Clift testified that he flew from Chicago to Dallas with $90,000 in the gym shorts he was wearing.  Rataj is mimicking what he thinks Clift would have looked walking through the airport, with money bulging out of his shorts.  He said Clift must have looked suspicious.

Clift said his shorts were baggy and loose and the money was not noticeable, and delivered what might be the line of the day:

"I felt the bulge, but the bulge wasn't visible," Clift said.

9:41--Attacking his credibility: Rataj is trying to shoot some hole's in Clift's credibility on the stand. 

"(The government) told you you were in trouble," Rataj said, holding Clift's immunity agreement that he signed, prohibiting the feds from charging him in this case.

Clift said he was not told that.

Rataj is also asking Clift about specific details related to the last two years: what airline did you use to get to Dallas?  Who were all the people you met in Dallas?  Who was the federal agent who called you about your subpoena?  Clift was sketchy on the particulars, saying it's been "almost two years."  

The questions may seem trivial, but Rataj is likely trying to ask jurors: if Clift can't remember details like these, who's to say his testimony is accurate? 

9:32--Here comes the bulldog: Mike Rataj, the fiery-tempered attorney for Bobby Ferguson, is cross-examining Clift.  He is no doubt the most aggressive of the lawyers who make up the defense team. He wasted no time in asking some pointed questions.

"Ever do any business with drug dealers," he asked Clift, who works with many high-end clients and celebrities in his jewelry business.

Clift said he wasn't aware of working with any.

9:31--Thanks, mom: Clift's mother--a lawyer for Blue Cross Blue Shield--instructed her son to push for an immunity agreement from the government in exchange for testifying in this case. The government complied. In other words, they agreed not to charge him.

9:25--Flies to Detroit: The following month, before Kilpatrick went to jail, Clift said he flew to Detroit to give the former mayor the remaining $40,000 at a Detroit apartment building.  He stayed at the Atheneum in Detroit, once again, while he visited Kilpatrick. 

9:19--"I hid it:" After traveling home to Chicago, where he lives, Clift said he hid the $90,000--made up of 9 stacks of hundred dollar bills--in a vacuum cleaner.  Eventually, he flew to Dallas to see Kilpatrick and gave him $50,000 from the stash. 

9:16--"Hold on to this for Black:" Sometime in 2008 at the Atheneum Hotel in Downtown Detroit, while he was visiting Kilpatrick, Clift said he was given a gift bag.  Inside was a plastic bag stuffed with $90,000 in cash.  Ferguson said "hold on to this for Black," which was a name Ferguson used for Kwame Kilpatrick.

9:12--Friends with benefits: Clift said he visited Kilpatrick "every blue moon" after he was elected mayor in 2002.  He said Kilpatrick was one of his "best friends," traveling with him on a private jet to Houston for an R. Kelly concert.  Ferguson as well as Derrick Miller--who has plead guilty in this case and will testify against Kilpatrick--and bodyguard Mike Martin also attended the concert. 

He also joined him on a jet trip to Bermuda along with some others.  Clift said he paid $2,000 for the trip, but doesn't remember who he paid it to.  He said he didn't know who supplied the jet.

9:09--Close friends: Clift told the jury that he and Kilpatrick are old college friends from Florida A & M.  Clift introduced Kilpatrick to his future wife, Carlita Kilpatrick, and the former mayor was a groomsman in Clift's wedding. He also says he was friendly with Bobby Ferguson, also on trial in this case. 

9:05--Next witness: The "legal matter" that had the attorneys' attention this morning seems to involve a criminal matter unrelated to this case.  The next witness, a jeweler named Mahlon Clift, was quizzed about a pending charge related to a business associate of his.  Clift insists he's not going to be charged. The jury is being brought in.

8:55--"Legal matter:" Things are starting off a little differently today in Judge Nancy Edmunds' courtroom.  Lawyers met at side bar to discuss a "legal matter" involving a witness.  That witness

has since been brought in--with the jury not present--and is being asked some preliminary questions by attorney Jim Thomas.  Let's see where this goes.

8:51--Splash of red:  Kwame Kilpatrick entered federal court this morning sporting a red bow tie. The only other grown man I can recall wearing a red bow tie was Pee Wee Herman, a comparison Kilpatrick likely would not welcome.

For those of you keeping score (and who in their right mind wouldn't?), it's bow tie: 2, necktie: 1 as we enter the third day of trial. 

It's important to keep a good sense of humor during a serious trial like this, right? 

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