BLOG: Kilpatrick's ex-friend turned government witness takes witness stand, talks payoffs

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

12:57--The end: At least for today.  We can expect a few more hours of testimony from Miller tomorrow before the defense gets a chance to cross-examine him.

12:55--Plenty paranoid: It's clear that Ferguson and Kilpatrick both were suspicious of people talking to the feds.

Ferguson texted Kilpatrick, saying they needed to hire a private investigator to determine "who is doing what to us and what is who (sic) doing."

Kilpatrick agreed, saying it should be "a good one from outside."

Ferguson said that they should keep this from Miller and Christine Beatty, who it appears they were suspicious of.

12:50--Turn it loud: Miller said that he and Kilpatrick would sometimes talk in the small barber room (the office connected to the Mayor's office) about business opportunities and city contracts.  He said Kilpatrick would turn up music loudly so as to evade detection from the feds if they were listening.

These conversations were sometimes about Bobby Ferguson. 

12:44--Sweeping the office: Miller said that the entire 11th floor--where the mayor's offices were located--were swept multiple times for bugs.  He's referring to listening devices.  At my office, when someone says they're "sweeping for bugs," they are quite literally sweeping the bugs off the floor.  We aren't the cleanest people in the WXYZ-TV Special Projects unit.

12:39--Well-organized: These private meetings between the Kilpatricks, Ferguson and Miller were so well organized, they had agendas.  On the agendas were "business opportunities, political strategy, community interests," Miller said.

Man, I'd like to get a look at those meetings minutes.

12:34--Nicknames aplenty: These guys handed out nicknames like they were candy.  Bernard Kilpatrick's was Zizwe (a name he got from the Shrine of the Black Madonna). Derrick Miller went by Zeke.  Previously, we've heard Kwame Kilpatrick was known as "Black Man," and Ferguson called his wife "Cookie."

My boss Ann Mullen has nicknames for me, but I can't print the vast majority of them.

12:30--Texts: The feds have used texts throughout this case to try to back-up what a witness has testified to.  That's happening now, as Chutkow is showing jurors text messages to and from both Kilpatricks, Ferguson and Miller in which they discuss meeting together.

12:25--Meet up: Miller says that he, Kilpatrick, Bernard Kilpatrick and Ferguson would sometimes meet at Bernard Kilpatrick's offices to touch base on various issues, including city contracts. The meetings took place at Bernard's condo.

Miller says Bernard would want to know about opportunities for his clients, while Ferguson wanted to know about business opportunities for himself. This includes opportunities for water contracts that were coming down the pipeline, Miller says. 

12:21--Bobby's power grows: Miller says, at least initially, he had Kilpatrick's ear "maybe a little more than Bobby."

"Did that change?" Chutkow asked.

"Yes," Miller responded.  He said that, as Kilpatrick spent more time in office, Ferguson began to wield more power.

12:17--Take care of Bobby: Miller says he was told directly by Kilpatrick to look for opportunities to include Bobby Ferguson on city business.

"We were supposed to help Bobby," he said.

12:16--Special access: Miller says that Ferguson had rare access to Kilpatrick while he was mayor.  He would knock on the door and pop his head in to interrupt cabinet meetings.  He said Kilpatrick would leave the cabinet meetings to talk to Ferguson.

12:12--Ferguson's pass: Being shown to jurors, for at least the second time, is an ID card with Bobby Ferguson's picture on it.  It says "Mayor's Office" under Ferguson's name.  Miller says the ID badge is the same kind he and others had, and gave access to the mayor's offices on the 11th floor.

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

11:51--Taking money:  Miller says he pushed for another business, Jones Lang Lasalle, to get city business.  The company paid Miller in cash at least ten times, he said.  He said he would sometimes share this money with Kilpatrick, sometimes telling him where it came from.  He says Kilpatrick always accepted it.

11:40--Warning from Kilpatrick: Miller says he received a warning from Kilpatrick about Kado:

"Be careful about Karl, he might be talking to the feds. He could be wearing a wire," Miller says Kilpatrick told him. 

11:37--Best client: Miller says Bernard Kilpatrick described Kado as "one of his best clients." Remember, Kado hired Bernard Kilpatrick as a consultant to help with his city business.  When Miller told Bernard Kilpatrick about complaints he had received about Kado, Bernard said he would look into it, but also thought that the complaints might be unwarranted.

11:36--Kado's work: Miller says Kado's work was not thought of highly by those at Cobo and elsewhere.  It received a number of complaints, he said.

11:31--Took cash for Kwame: Miller says he took money from Kado on Kilpatrick's behalf.  He said Kilpatrick told him "to go see Kado, pick up the package," Miller recalls.

He said this happened at Cobo Hall. How much was it?

"I didn't count it, but a lot of money. Five or ten thousand," Miller said.

He said this happened "once or twice."

"After you picked up the money, what did you do with it?" Chutkow asked.

"Gave it to the mayor," he responded.  He gave the money to Kilpatrick in the mayor's "office or the barber room."

11:27--More cash: Miller says Kado was "always offering cash," and he accepted it twice. It was in denominations of $10,000, and was in hundreds. Miller had a supervisory role at Cobo Hall and says he knew he shouldn't do it, but he accepted it anyway. 

11:25--$10,000: Miller says he was asked by Kwame Kilpatrick to pick up $10,000 from Kado for the campaign.

"My understanding was we couldn't accept cash, it had to be a money order, check, something like that," Miller said.

He said he received no receipt from Kado.

11:23--Moving on: Now questioning is moving on to Karl Kado, the Cobo businessman who said Kilpatrick extorted him.  He also said, memorably, that he thought he might have dementia.

11:18--Another text: Miller sent Kilpatrick this text on December 30, 2004:

"Just talked with John (sic) Rutherford.  Ventian (sic) wants to come in on 17 th to discuss riverfront piece complete with convention facility.  I will work with Iris on Monday. Extra tax on slots sounds like the financing mechanism to pay off bonds."

Kilpatrick responded: Cool!

11:14--Switching sides: Chutkow is asking Miller about Rutherford's plan to put a casino on the riverfront.  When he ran for mayor, Kilpatrick was against developing the riverfront for private use, Miller said.  He wanted it to be accessible to the public. 

But Kilpatrick became receptive to Rutherford's plan as time went on, Miller said.

11:07--More texts: We're seeing texts between Miller and Kwame Kilpatrick over meetings that they attended about Rutherford's desire to build a casino on Detroit's riverfront.  Miller says he met with Rutherford approximately 35 times about the deal.

11:03--Back to Rutherford: Chutkow is asking Miller about texts he received from Bernard Kilpatrick regarding Rutherford.  Rutherford had hired Kilpatrick as a consultant to get city business.

We're being shown a text sent by Bernard Kilpatrick to Miller, which we saw earlier in trial.  It reads:

"I have a 10:00 breakfast with my client, Jon Rutherford, who says you won't call him back..which is cool 'cause he should go thru me.  i would appreciate a call about 10:30..thanx," Bernard Kilpatrick wrote.

10:58--We're back: Asst. U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow continues his direct examination of former Kilpatrick aide and friend Derrick Miller.  He's currently being asked about Emma Bell, who was Kilpatrick's lead fundraiser who testified she paid cash kickbacks to Kilpatrick in his mayoral suite.

Miller is being shown pictures of the mayoral suite and a room known as the "Barber Room," a small office that had a barber chair in it where Bell said she paid Kilpatrick those kickbacks.  Miller says he saw Bell in that room with Kilpatrick.  Sometimes the door was open, other times it would later close.

10:49--Jim Thomas and the crease: While we're on a break, I need to take care of some housekeeping issues.  On Friday, you might recall the cross-examination of Homeland Security employee Steve Lorenz.  He was testifying about a video which showed FBI agent Joseph Jensen stuffing $90,000 in his pants and walking through a metal detector. Thomas said there was a very noticeable crease in Jensen's shirt.  At the time, here's what I blogged:

"Jim Thomas is making a big deal out of a crease in the agent's shirt (that we're watching on the video) after he stuffed the money inside his pants.  Frankly, I don't see any crease, and the TSA agent testifying doesn't seem impressed by it either, but Thomas is suggesting he looks very suspicious, and anyone carrying that much money on their person would warrant a pat down by TSA."

I still stand by my statement that Jensen's shirt looked completely normal, but Thomas insists I'm dead wrong. He pointed that out to me just now outside of the court's snack shop and, it should be noted, my colleague Heather Catallo said she did see a noticeable crease.  She's watching from the courtroom, while I'm relegated to the media room on the second floor, where we watch testimony on a closed-circuit feed.

I did have a chance to look at Thomas's shirt and, as always, it was nicely pressed and lacked any creases whatsoever.  The man is a snazzy dresser.

10:28--Break time: Time for a morning break.  Stay with us, folks.

10:26--Yoga: This is a trip down memory lane.  We're also seeing some checks made out for yoga from the Civic Fund, which we saw earlier in the trial.  Miller says he joined Kilpatrick in some of the yoga sessions which were held at Cobo Hall. 

10:25--Another check: A $3,050 Civic Fund check written out to Tom Deaton's Driving Ranges was signed by Miller.  Like the La Costa check, Miller says he believes he signed those checks when they were blank initially. The "to" and "amount" were added later.

10:20--La Costa: My employer is really cleaning up today.  Now being shown to the jury is an $8,605 check made out to the La Costa resort in California for a Kilpatrick family trip that was exposed by 7 Action News. Kilpatrick would later say that the trip was, in part, a fundraising trip.

Miller is talking about the meeting held after this check was exposed, where Kilpatrick was present with Miller, media advisor Bob Berg, press secretary Matt Allen, aide Jermaine Dickens, Christine Beatty and others. The team was trying to devise a strategy to respond to the story.

"We had to come up with some kind of response, story," Miller said.

He said Kilpatrick told him he had fundraised on the trip, but Miller says he had no evidence that that was true.

10:19--Blank checks: Miller says he pre-signed blank Civic Fund checks for Christine Beatty, who was the fund's treasurer. 

10:15--More checks: Chutkow is showing another check from the Kilpatrick Civic Fund to a research company.  It shows that Miller, in addition to Christine Beatty, signed the check. Miller says that he was added as a signatory to the Civic Fund.

This company was doing campaign polling, Miller said.

10:11--Hey, I'm on TV!  A Channel 7 clip from the 2001 mayoral run is again playing a key role in the trial.  In it, Kilpatrick is asked about his little-known Civic Fund.  He responded by saying this: "We haven't used one penny, one penny of the Civic Fund for this campaign because it's not allowed by law," Kilpatrick said emphatically.

"Was that a true statement?," Chutkow asked Miller.

"No," he said.

10:05--Controversy: Miller is testifying about how a $50,000 check from Rutherford to the Civic Fund received front-page coverage from the Detroit Free Press.  The Kilpatrick team huddled together to put together a strategy to respond.

9:57--Checks: Another check was written, this one for $34,000, to "Next Generation Detroit" from Rutherford's company.  It, too, was a PAC that helped Kilpatrick, Miller says.

A $20,000 check written in 2001 from Rutherford's company to the Kilpatrick Civic Fund is also being shown to the jury.  We just saw another for $30,000, too.

9:48-- Check written: Rutherford wrote a check for $50,000 to the 21st Century Fund, which Miller says was a Political Action Committee (PAC) that disbursed money to Democratic candidates in the state. Miller says Kilpatrick was in charge of distributing that $50,000.

Kilpatrick shook his head and frowned as Miller said that.

9:46--Jon Rutherford: Moving on again, Asst. U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow is now asking Miller about Detroit businessman Jon Rutherford, who said he showered Kilpatrick with gifts and cash. 

9:41--Civic Fund: And there it is.  The jury was just shown one of the checks the Civic Fund paid for this research.  Miller testified that this research was sought to gauge Kilpatrick's chances as a political candidate, and was not to be shared with the public.

"It was for internal use," Miller said.

Remember, the key defense for Kilpatrick's lawyers months ago was that this information was for the public's benefit.

9:36--Moving on: It seems we're done with this subject, moving on to Kilpatrick's team deciding to hire a research firm to poll the chances of Kilpatrick being elected mayor. I expect Miller will be testifying about how this work was paid for by the Kilpatrick Civic Fund, the former mayor's non-profit.

9:33--The eyes have it: It's interesting to watch Kwame Kilpatrick's eyes as Miller testifies.  He continues to look directly at Miller on the witness stand, sometimes shaking his head in disagreement with things he says.

9:28--Training: Did Miller ever see anything inside Ferguson's Headquarters on Wyoming Street that suggested any "vocational training" was going on?  No, he said.

Remember that earlier on in this trial, we learned that Ferguson received state grant money to build classrooms in his headquarters and teach kids about demolition work.  Miller says he never saw any evidence that that happened, though.

9:25--Doctored? Miller says he got the feeling that the paperwork he was requesting from Ferguson and his wife "didn't exist."

9:23--Need documents: When it came to the state grant that Kilpatrick helped secure for Bobby Ferguson's use, the state wanted some back-up documentation before it handed out the rest of the funding. 

Bobby Ferguson's wife Marilyn provided some records, but MIller says they weren't enough.

"This was inadequate and we needed better documentation," Miller says he told Ferguson's wife Marilyn.

9:20--Upset over Carlita: Miller says Rep. Kilpatrick was upset that his wife Carlita's name was mentioned to the state as a recipient of some of that cultural grant money.  He said he didn't think it was "necessary."

9:15--State arts grant: Expect the feds to ask Miller about a whole bunch of topics that we've hit upon throughout the first 48 days of trial.  Right now, he's being asked about the state arts grants that ultimately went to Bobby Ferguson and Carlita Kilpatrick while Kilpatrick was still in the state legislature. These grants were initially explored early on in this trial.

9:12--Running man: Not much later, Miller said he and Christine Beatty met with Kilpatrick to discuss his run for state representative.  Kilpatrick won, and Miller was his deputy chief of staff. 

9:09--Friendship begins: Kilpatrick and Miller met in 9th grade English class where, along with Christine Beatty, they would form one of the ultimate power friendships in Detroit history.

After college, Miller would go to work for Kilpatrick's mother Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick as a legislative assistant from 1997 through 2000. 

Miller attended Kilpatrick's wedding to his wife Carlita, and Kilpatrick was Miller's best man in his own wedding. 

Clearly, the government's trying to show that Miller wasn't just an acquaintance of Kilpatrick: they were friends in the truest sense.

9:03--Enter Zeke: Derrick Miller, known as "Zeke" to Kilpatrick and others, has just entered the courtroom.  His was the city's Chief Administrative Officer from 2002 through 2005, working on government relations and the corporate community. He was Kilpatrick's top advisor.

From 2006 through 2007, he switched over to Chief Information Officer.  He left city government in 2007, switching over to a private investment job.

8:48--Showdown: One of the potentially most damaging witnesses for the former mayor is expected to take the stand this morning in the Kilpatrick corruption case.

Testimony from former Kilpatrick aide and long-time friend Derrick Miller has been anticipated for months.  Miller was once charged as part of the alleged "Kilpatrick Enterprise," but took a plea deal in exchange for his testimony against Kilpatrick.  Miller's plea deal details a $10,000 cash bribe he allegedly gave to Kilpatrick in a restaurant bathroom.  

As with many other high-profile witnesses, Miller's testimony could take several days and he will face aggressive cross-examination.  

Miller has been widely-seen as the government's star witness in this mammoth case, especially given how close he once was to the former mayor.  The two became friends at Cass Tech High School in Detroit.  

On inauguration day in 2002, Kilpatrick said Miller had "been there from day one" and would "be there at the end."

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