Government rests case, defense calls first witness in Kilpatrick corruption trial

(WXYZ) - After 5 months of testimony, federal prosecutors finally rested their case in the Kilpatrick corruption trial.

Now, the defense is calling some witnesses of their own, but one of them may be backfiring on them.

The Judge in the Kilpatrick corruption trial qualified CPA Gary Leeman as an expert for the defense as they fight the income tax evasion charges against Kwame Kilpatrick.

The former mayor's lawyer Jim Thomas also used Leeman to educate the jury about 501c4 organizations like the Kilpatrick Civic Fund.  Federal prosecutors allege Kilpatrick used that fund illegally for campaign and personal expenses, including yoga lessons and a Cadillac.

Thomas has suggested to the jury that Kilpatrick received thousands of dollars in non-taxable gifts over the years – which are not included in the government's calculation of the former mayor's income.

Leeman told the jury without knowing the source of all the cash – there's no way to get an accurate sense of Kilpatrick's true income.

But then Assistant U. S. Attorney Michael Bullotta got Leeman to agree that if the excess cash was actually from bribes and kickbacks – it would be taxable income.

Bullotta also got Leeman to agree that if Kilpatrick used the Civic Fund to pay for polling for his mayoral campaign –it would not be an allowed under the law.

Then Bullotta showed the jury Civic Fund checks written for yoga lessons – and Leeman laughed and said "I highly doubt that would be a deductible expense.. not even close."

"Any comment on today's testimony at all," 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catalo asked Kilpatrick.  "No, ma'am," said Kilpatrick.

The Kilpatrick defense also called Sophie Plastiras to the stand. The sales director from the Atheneum's International Banquet and Conference center told the jury that the Kilpatrick's hosted 1500 people at a birthday party back in 2006. 

Thomas has been showing the jury checks throughout the case that he says are gifts from people from that party.. and today used Plastiras to show the FBI never asked for records to determine whether that event took place.

Before the government rested their case at 10:45 am, they fired a few more shots at Bobby Ferguson. The feds say they investigated more than $2.5 million in cash withdrawals and checks written to cash from Ferguson's bank accounts during a six year period. But the defense has said there's nothing illegal about possessing cash – and showed the jury many of the Ferguson Enterprises checks had things like "truck parts" and "employee bonus" written in the memo lines.

On Thursday, EPA Investigator Carol Paszkiewicz introduced two of those checks the defense had fought to keep out – they were written to the Golden Sun jewelry store in Southfield for $9,000 and $9500. On both checks, the memo line contained the words "truck parts."  Paszkiewicz told the jury "they do not sell truck parts at Golden Sun."

Ferguson lawyer Mike Rataj then showed the jury several receipts for actual trucks that he said matched other checks Ferguson wrote. 

The defense will continue calling witnesses on Friday.


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