Mayoral debate that aired on 7 used as testimony in Kilpatrick trial

DETROIT (WXYZ) - A mayoral debate that aired on 7 Action News played a starring role in Friday's testimony for the Kilpatrick corruption trial.

The FBI subpoenaed a copy of that debate video from us two years ago – and now we know why they needed it.

Friday during FBI Special Agent Bob Beeckman's testimony – the feds played that video of a young Kwame Kilpatrick making promises that could come back to haunt him.

"I would not mess with the IRS," said Kilpatrick during the 2001 debate.

Even as far back as Kwame Kilpatrick's first mayor's race, he was defending his Kilpatrick Civic Fund,  the non-profit that the FBI says Kilpatrick used illegally as his personal piggy bank.

Friday, FBI Special Agent Bob Beeckman took the witness stand to introduce key pieces of evidence, including this debate that 7 Action News aired between Kilpatrick and former city council president Gil Hill 11 years ago.

The public corruption investigator told the jury that 501c4 funds like the Civic Fund are supposed to be used for charitable and educational purposes. But federal prosecutors allege Kilpatrick used more than $150,000 of the restricted funds for his campaign and for other personal expenses, like golf lessons and fancy vacations.
This is just some of what Special Agent Beeckman played for the jury.

"The Kilpatrick Civic Fund was set up in 1997 by a group of young people, we all went to Cass Tech together, and we wanted to raise the number of people who voted between the ages of 18 and 35," said Kilpatrick in 2001.

Kilpatrick was asked during that debate if he had done anything that would cause him to step down. His response: "I've done nothing illegal or improper since I've been born."

"We haven't used on penny, one penny of the Civic Fund in this campaign because it's not allowed by law," said Kilpatrick in the debate.

Assistant U. S. Attorney Mark Chutkow then put Daniel Gotoff on the stand. Gotoff conducts public opinion research.

Chutkow showed the jury invoices for polling that was done by Gotoff's company for the Kilpatrick for Mayor Campaign committee… and then showed nearly $36,000 in checks Gotoff was paid from the non-profit Kilpatrick Civic Fund.

Kilpatrick defense attorney Jim Thomas pressed both Beeckman and Gotoff on the idea that non-profits like the Civic Fund can be used to promote political issues – as long as they're not directing the public to vote for a particular candidate. At one point Thomas got Gotoff to agree that the polling work was gauging what people think about an issue – but he stood his ground when the feds asked him again who his client was. Gotoff clearly said – he had been hired by the Kilpatrick political campaign.

Despite that, Thomas says he's "confident" at the end of the 2nd week of testimony.

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