Ex-Kilpatrick friend Derrick Miller tells jury ex-mayor took kickbacks, worried about bugs

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Kwame Kilpatrick was once his best man at this wedding, but now Derrick Miller is telling the jury in the Kilpatrick Corruption Case that he gave cash kickbacks to his former friend and boss.

Miller is one of the government's star witnesses.  Today he talked about his former friend being paranoid – even having his office swept for bugs. And he detailed alleged cash kickbacks to the ex-mayor.

Kilpatrick and Miller have been friends since 9th grade English class at Cass Tech.

But now Miller's testimony that he gave cash kickbacks to Detroit's former mayor has the potential to seal Kilpatrick's fate.

"I can't speak to their personal relationship. Certainly they're on different sides of the aisle right now. All I can speak to is my clients desire to move on with his life," said Miller's attorney Byron Pitts.

Miller was originally charged with racketeering and conspiracy, alongside Kilpatrick, the ex-mayor's father, and contractor Bobby Ferguson. But Miller bailed out – and pleaded guilty to tax evasion – and corruption charges. 

Hoping for a lighter sentence – the former Chief Administrative Officer for Detroit turned on the so-called Kilpatrick enterprise in federal court today.

"Is he the ultimate insider," 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo asked former federal prosecutor and legal analyst Peter Henning.

"Certainly he was inside the office. He was there at the meetings, at Bernard Kilpatrick's condo late at night. He was a member as he described it of the inner circle," said Henning.

Assistant U. S. Attorney Mark Chutkow started at the beginning – taking the jury back to Kilpatrick's time in Lansing and that first race for mayor.

"We haven't used one penny – not one penny – of the civic fund for in this campaign because it is not allowed by law," said Kilpatrick during a 2001 debate in the 7 Action News studios.

Miller told the jury he was part of conversations to prepare for those questions about Kilpatrick's Civic Fund.  He said Kilpatrick knew that statement that he made in the debate was not true.

Miller testified that he accepted $10,000 in cash from former Cobo Hall contractor Karl Kado on two different occasions. Miller also said that Kilpatrick directed Miller to pick up another ten grand for the former mayor from Kado. 

Miller said the money was in $100 bills – but did not give details about exactly when and where he picked up the money.

"Is he being as specific as the federal government is hoping he'll be," Catallo asked Pitts.

"He's answered every question. I can't speak for the federal government, but every question that's been put to him, he's answered truthfully and thoroughly," said Pitts.

Miller told the jury that he got cash kick backs for bringing in the real estate company Jones Lang LaSalle to handle some city business.  According to court records, he got more than $115,000.

Today, Miller said he gave half of that cash to Kilpatrick – who would often "take it" and say "cool."

"Is he telling the truth about that cash," Catallo asked Kilpatrick outside federal court in Detroit Monday.  Kilpatrick did not answer.

Miller also testified that people in the Kilpatrick administration were supposed to help Bobby Ferguson when it came to city contracts.

Former federal prosecutor Peter Henning thought Miller did well on the stand – but his plea deal could be his downfall.

"This is the person who connects all those other dots. And so in that regard, he can be an important witness if the jurors believe him. If they believe he's just trying to save his own skin, he's made this up… Is this a friend scorned," said Henning.

Henning says he expects the defense to hammer Miller on cross examination.

Miller also talked about how sometimes when he would meet with Kilpatrick, the former mayor would turn up the music very loud while they spoke – in an effort to keep anyone who may be bugging his office or his home from hearing what they were talking about.

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