Next chapter of Kilpatrick corruption trial focuses on campaign and civic funds

DETROIT (WXYZ) - The government officially started the next "chapter" of the Kilpatrick Corruption case – and it's clear this will be about Kilpatrick's campaign and civic funds.

The government's key witness on alleged campaign fund kickbacks hasn't even taken the stand yet and it's already getting ugly, with allegations of hundreds of thousands of dollars spent at the casino.

Emma Bell was Kwame Kilpatrick's fundraiser and she told the IRS that the former mayor was "like a son" to her.

Federal prosecutors allege Kilpatrick told Bell to give him a portion of the commissions that she got when she raised money for his various campaign funds and non-profits.  According to the indictment, Kilpatrick received more than $286,000 in kickbacks.

Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, his long-time friend Bobby Ferguson, and former Detroit Water Department Director Victor Mercado are all on trial right now, accused of running a criminal enterprise out of city hall.

IRS Agent Ron Sauer spent hours on the witness stand Wednesday. He walked the jury through Bell's records from First Independence Bank in Detroit – where he says she deposited huge checks from the Kilpatrick for Mayor and Kilpatrick Inaugural Committee funds.

Agent Sauer testified that Bell used $100,000 and $50,000 checks to take out cash or purchase cashiers' checks.  In all, Agent Sauer says bell cashed more than $904,000 from 2003-2008.

And here's where the two sides differ: The feds say Bell gave the cash to Kilpatrick. The defense says Bell is a gambling addict who has had tax problems for decades.

Bell has taken a plea deal with the feds in exchange for her testimony in this case and Kilpatrick lawyer Jim Thomas is going after both the IRS agent and Bell.  As part of her deal, Bell could do less time on tax evasion charges.

"Every witness is going to stand on their own testimony and the jury is going to make a decision based on that.  Hopefully they're paying attention and it seems that they are," said Thomas.

Thomas showed Bell's gambling records from Greektown Casino. On the same day that she cashed a check from the campaign fund, Thomas says Bell burned through $9,000 at the slot machines. Thomas said those casino records revealed that in 2008 alone, Bell gambled more than $803,000 with losses of more than $82,000.

"We'll see what she has to say about that tomorrow," said Thomas.

Agent Sauer testified that Bell told him that she gave Kilpatrick half of any check she got that was over $5,000.  Thomas used Agent Sauer's grand jury testimony to press him on whether the IRS found a high correlation between Bell's check cashing activity and Kilpatrick's cash deposits at the bank. Thomas says Agents Sauer told the grand jury that "no direct correlation has been found."

The IRS agent also testified that Emma Bell's driver often drove her from the bank to the City-County Building, but the defense got him to admit that they didn't have any eye witnesses who saw her give the former mayor the cash.

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