Day 46: Fmr. Kilpatrick aide describes cash payoffs to dad, lavish trips, paranoid mayor

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Follow along with day 46 in the Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial as 7 Action News Investigator Ross Jones blogs all the news to come out of federal court:

12:40--The end: Thanks for joining us.

12:39--What did Bernard do? Shea is trying to show that Bernard Kilpatrick earned his money.

"He assisted you in some respect in guiding the deal forward, isn't that true?" Shea asked.

Cunningham agreed.

"What did Bernard Kilpatrick do?" asked Asst. U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta.

Cunningham said he wasn't sure, other than attending one meeting.

12:30--Govt. done: Now, Bernard Kilpatrick's lawyer John Shea is back up. He's asking about the plea deal he made with the government, which allowed him a better deal come sentencing time if he provided his cooperation.

"(The government) is relying on what you say as the truth," Shea said. 

12:25--Re-direct: The government is back up with their chance to re-direct.  He's asking Cunningham if he hired Bernard Kilpatrick as a "consultant" to help secure an investment in his friend's company.

"No," Cunningham said.

"Did you believe you were supposed to pay Bernard Kilpatrick?" Asst. U.S. Attorney Bullotta asked.

"Yes," he said.

"Why did you believe you needed to pay Bernard Kilpatrick?" Bullotta asked.

"Chris Jackson explained he needed to be in the mix on this one, because he was Bernard...he was Kwame's dad," Cunningham said.

"Did you believe Kwame Kilpatrick wanted you to pay Bernard Kilpatrick?" Bullotta asked.

Cunningham said yes, adding that Kilpatrick would sometimes say: "Thanks for taking care of my dad."

He said Bernrad Kilpatrick didn't earn the money he was paid.

"That's the way it was," Cunningham said.

"I was just trying to play by whatever rules there were."

12:15--Performing rehab: Thomas is trying to go point by point, rehabilitating his client over some of Cunningham's previous claims. He suggested a few minutes ago that people were switching to Blackberry phones years ago because they were more compatible than other devices.

Just now, he suggested that Kilpatrick's pleasure trips (like the one to Bermuda) also had a business element to them, too.  Cunningham agreed.

12:13--Soave a friend: Cunningham says he thought Tony Soave gave Kilpatrick use of his jet freely and voluntarily, and said sometimes that he was "glad he was using it."

12:02--Cover-up? Thomas asked Cunningham if he was really saying that Kilpatrick initiated a cover-up scheme for the $5,000 payoff. He seemed to expect Cunningham to say it wasn't Kilpatrick's idea, but he did. Cunningham said the initial plan was to have a receipt made out to document the payoff as a donation to the Civic Fund.

He said Kilpatrick came up with the idea, but that he later said: "Wait, that won't work."

12:00--Legit reasons: Thomas is suggesting that there are legitimate reasons to have one's office swept for listening devices, especially after Kwame Kilpatrick won re-election.  Cunningham agrees that there can be good reasons to do it. 

11:57--Carrying cash: Cunningham said he only saw Kilpatrick with cash during the Bermuda trip.

11:55--Payoff places: There was a lot of activity in the places that Cunningham said he gave Bernard Kilpatrick payoffs.  The barber shop in the basement of city hall, the mayor's office, and other locations were buzzing with activity, Thomas said.  Cunningham agrees. 

11:51--Mosaic meeting: Is Cunningham absolutely certain that Kwame Kilpatrick was at the meeting where he says he was told to bring Bernard Kilpatrick in on $30 million investment deal?  No, he can't say that he is.

11:45--Oops? Jim Thomas asked Cunningham about Derrick Miller, Kilpatrick's former aide who will testify later in this case against the mayor.  He asked Cunningham if it was true that Miller became less visible in the administration and had "gone rogue."  Cunningham agreed, but then said this:

"I never knew what Derrick did, he was like Kwame," Cunningham said.

11:42--Hard worker: "Do you know anyone who worked harder than Kwame Kilpatrick?" Thomas asked.

"Only Adrian Peterson," Cunningham said, referencing the Minnesota Vikings' tough-as-nails running back.

He's heaping praise on Kilpatrick, saying there were cops on the street, business was coming back downtown and spirits were high.

11:40--Friends: Cunningham acknowledges that his family and the Kilpatricks were terrific friends.  Their kids spent a lot of time together.

11:37--Kilpatrick lawyer up: Here comes Jim Thomas.

"How are you sir?" he asked Cunningham.

"I've been better," he responded.

11:35--Payments to Beasley: Shea is asking Cunningham if he paid bribes to Jeffrey Beasley, who helped approve the investment deal with the pension deal.  Cunningham said he paid Beasley "out of love," not as kickbacks.

Finally, after unrelenting questions from Shea, Cunningham reluctantly conceded that he paid Beasley "in part" because he helped make the deal.

11:24--Consultant: Shea is suggesting that "bringing in" the mayor's father on the deal was done before the pension board approved the $30 million investment.  In other words, he's saying that Bernard Kilpatrick was hired to help get the deal, and therefore was a consultant.

11:17--Meeting: Shea is talking about the meeting at Mosaic that we discussed earlier, when Kilpatrick, Cunningham and others discussed the $30 million investment deal.

"This is how it went down," Cunningham said, relaxing in his car.

He says he was told "this is your deal.  If you do it, the only thing you have to do is bring in Bernard."

11:10--Soft landing: Shea is talking about the deal Cunningham cut with the feds. He was never charged over the $5,000 bribe he took, and the government has offered a lighter sentence if he cooperates in this case.

Shea called it a "sweet deal."

10:57--Shea first: Bernard Kilpatrick's savvy lawyer John Shea is up now.  He's starting his cross-examination by asking Cunningham about the $5,000 FBI sting he got caught up in.

10:45--Christmas party: For those of you who didn't know, I'm actually blogging from a media room six floors below the courtroom here at federal court. Laptops aren't allowed in the courtroom, and the media room has its benefits...especially today. My colleagues from the other stations and newspapers have been enjoying a little Christmas potluck this morning, with the star dish being Detroit Free Press reporter Tresa Baldas' chicken bruschetta.

They're so good, in fact, that Bobby Ferguson found out about them and requested one to taste. Tresa obliged.  'Tis the season, after all .

10:32--Break time: Grab another cup of coffee, folks. 

10:31--Deal with feds: Asst. U.S. Attorney Michael Bullotta is asking about the plea that Cunningham signed with the feds, pledging his cooperation.  He will be sentenced to 30-37 months for conspiracy to commit bribery, but if he tells the truth in this case, he can receive a lighter sentence.

10:28--Bob visits: FBI special agent Bob Beeckman visited Cunningham at his home in 2010, telling him he was aware of the $5,000 Philadelphia payoff, showing him a picture of the hotel where it happened.

Cunningham said he initially told Beeckman that he gave the $5,000 back.

"I was afraid," he said. 

He could tell Beeckman knew otherwise, though, so he decided to tell the truth.

"I took the money," he said.

10:24--Boxing, too: In May 2007, Cunningham and Kilpatrick flew to Las Vegas to see the Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather fight.  Kilpatrick's father and Bobby Ferguson were there, too.

10:22--Kwame's cash: Cunningham said he saw Kilpatrick with $2,000 to $3,000 in cash during the Bermuda trip.

10:21--Flying high: Switching gears now, Cunningham is talking about a trip that he, Kilpatrick and others took to Bermuda in the Summer of 2006.  They flew on city contractor Tony Soave's jet, played golf, "hung out" and even watched cricket, staying in a house on an island. 

"It was a kick-off to the new regime trip," Cunningham said.

"Kick it, pleasure kind of trip."

Cunningham said everyone paid something for the trip--less than it actually cost--but thought it was between $500 and $1000.

"The trip was a nice trip.  That may have covered some basics but, you know," Cunningham said.

10:19--New phones: Cunningham said he and the mayor needed to ditch their phones.  They put the Blackberries in his name, and bought "burn out" phones which had 30-day contracts.

10:18--Fear of the feds: Cunningham said he and Kilpatrick were so paranoid when they met that they talked outside behind the mansion, near the Detroit River.  They spoke with their hands over their mouths.

"We thought the FBI was watching," Cunningham said.

10:15--Knock, knock: Now, Cunningham is detailing a visit he received at his home from my colleague and fellow-blogger, Free Press Pulitzer Prize winner Jim Schaefer.  He says Schaefer disclosed that Cunningham's phone was being tapped.  Cunningham said he was again surprised, and sped over to talk to Kilpatrick at the mayoral mansion.

10:14--"Too hot" At that point, Cunningham says Kilpatrick told him he was "too hot," meaning he was potentially dangerous now that he was under investigation by the feds.  Kilpatrick moved him into the city's film office.

10:12--Civic Fund: Cunningham said Kilpatrick called the sting a "classic set-up," and said Cunningham should have known better. He agreed.

He said Kilpatrick initially told him they could put the $5,000 in the Civic Fund (the mayor's non-profit fund) and they would give Cunningham a receipt, but then thought better of it, thinking it wouldn't actually work.

10:11--Philly calls: In September 2007, Cunningham says he took a call from a Philadelphia newspaper reporter, who had information that Cunningham gave $5,000 to an FBI information.  Cunningham was stunned, saying: "Oh my gosh."

He said he rushed to meet Kilpatrick at the airport to tell him about it.  Why not use a phone?

Cunningham said he expected his phone was being bugged.

10:06--Swept for bugs: Cunninigham said Kilpatrick's main office, as well as the "private chamber room" were swept for listening devices.

10:05--Private room: Cunningham is looking at large photos of Kilpatrick's office.  Specifically, he's talking about a small side room that Cunningham called a "private little chamber room."

He said he often saw the mayor meet alone with certain people there: Emma Bell (who said she handed Kilpatrick lots of cash in that room), his father Bernard and friend Bobby Ferguson.

10:00--Basement hand offs: Cunningham would pay the Mayor's dad in discrete locations, sometimes in the basement of city hall downtown.  He said Bernard Kilpatrick would often ask him if he'd just received a paycheck.

"It's about that time," he says Bernard would say.

When the payments were a little less than $5,000, he says Bernard noticed.

"It's a little light, he would say," Cunningham recalled.

But he always made sure to tell the Mayor.

"I took care of your dad today," Cunningham would tell him. He said he wanted the Mayor to know.

9:55--BK needs in: Cunningham said he met at Mosaic restaurant in Detroit with Chris Jackson, Jeff Beasley and Kwame Kilpatrick.  He said he was given a directive.

"I gotta go in with this deal with BK," he said.

BK was Bernard Kilpatrick, the mayor's dad. He said he gave him between $3,000 and $5,000 of his $25,000 pay checks. He paid him with cash.

"It was kind of like the way it was," Cunningham said.

"Trying to gain they knew I was trying to look out for his dad...make sure his dad was taken care of."

Then he said this: "Thanking the Mayor for making that deal go through, "Cunnigham said.

9:53--Changing the contract: Cunningham said he scribbled on the contract he signed for the Simcom work, which said he'd he paid his $300,000 in installments of $25,000.  Cunningham changed the number to $15,000.  Why?

He said he was afraid Bernard Kilpatrick would ask him for more money if he knew how much he was really making.

9:49--New gig: In the Summer of 2006, Cunningham became Kilpatrick's executive assistant.

"I'd roll with him to events, make sure he was prepped for those events, make sure he followed the schedule," Cunningham said.

9:42--Pension funds: Cunningham said that he and his friend Jeffrey Beasley (also a close friend of Kilpatrick's) had an idea.  Beasley sat on one of the city's pension boards, and Cunningham wanted to help get $15 million in investments for his family friend Terry Jones's Chicago company Simcom. 

Cunningham would be paid in $300,000 over three years as a consultant for the company.

9:40--Switching names: About six months later, the phones were taken out of Bobby Ferguson's name and put into Kwame Kilpatrick's.  Cunningham says he's not sure why this was done, but said Kilpatrick started to pay for the phones.  He said he used cash and credit cards to pay the bills.

Can you pay a phone bill with cash?

9:35--Asking about phones: In January 2005, Kilpatrick sent Cunningham a message asking about the new phones.

"What's up with the Blackberrys bruh?" Kilpatrick asked.

9:31--Warning about texts: Don't use Skytel texting devices, Cunningham says he told Kilpatrick.  He said he warned Kilpatrick that Skytel stored messages for years, and that they weren't as protected as Blackberrys.  Kilpatrick agreed, and Cunningham said Bobby Ferguson bought five Blackberrys. 

The phones went to Kilpatrick, Carlita Kilpatrick, Christine Beatty and Bobby Ferguson.  Not sure who the fifth is.

9:30--Come to Detroit: After being elected mayor, Kwame Kilpatrick urged his old friend to move from Chicago to the Detroit area.

"We should just come here," Cunningham said he was told.  He did.

9:26--Frat buddies: Cunningham says he and Kilpatrick go way back, to their frat days at Florida A&M University.

9:24--I'm a liar: Well, this is awkward.  Looks like the morning's witness is not Mr. Parker, it's Marc Andre Cunningham. Here we go.

9:13--Delayed: We're having another delay here, as the lawyers are huddled in Judge Nancy Edmunds' chambers, possibly having another discussion on what testimony can and can't be allowed.  Yesterday they had a tussle over what the defense regarded as hearsay testimony. 

9:04--Bow tie's back! Christmas has come early, as Kilpatrick is sporting one of those snazzy bow tie's he made a staple of his outfit early on in this trial.  He stopped wearing them for weeks and weeks...until this morning.

9:01--Coming attractions: The fed's next witness after Parker will likely be Marc Andre Cunningham, a former Kilpatrick executive assistant.  I say that because one of the FBI agents on this case just led him into the courtroom to show him where he'll be sitting when he testifies. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit a bribe in 2010.

9:00--Parker: We'll begin where we ended yesterday, with business consultant Bernard Parker III.  He's the government witness who alleged Kwame Kilpatrick held up at least two major city contracts until his friend  Bobby Ferguson's demands were met.

Yesterday, defense lawyers went hard at Parker and got him to admit that he lied to his boss in an e-mail about his contracts with the city.

8:53--Day 46: It's the last day of trial before the Christmas break, and everyone here could use it.  Not just the lawyers, who yesterday lost their composure more than once, but the jurors, too.  We've had a lot of trial days canceled in this case, but not a single one has been because of a juror's illness or exhaustion. They could use a break.

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