Jury gets corruption case of former Detroit mayor

Written by Muleskinner Staff

(DETROIT, Mich., AP) – The corruption case of Kwame Kilpatrick was given to jurors Friday after a blistering summary from a prosecutor who said the former Detroit mayor’s bank account swelled with a “tidal wave of green” through extortion and bribery.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow tried to pull the jury to the government’s view of the evidence following 1½ days of passionate final remarks from defense lawyers. He posted Kilpatrick’s text messages on a large screen to show that the fix was in for millions of dollars in city contracts that benefited a buddy who had a construction business.
The government alleges that Kilpatrick got a cut of those deals from co-defendant Bobby Ferguson and spent more than $800,000 beyond his salary while in office from 2002 to fall 2008.
“The scale of corruption was breathtaking,” Chutkow told jurors. “We cannot turn away and ignore the corruption that occurred in this city. It is time for the former mayor and his accomplices to be held accountable for their crimes, it is past time.”
Jurors, who have been together for five months, ate lunch Friday, but won’t start formal deliberations until Tuesday. Monday is a public holiday.
Kilpatrick, 42, is charged with 30 crimes, including racketeering conspiracy, bribery, extortion and tax evasion. His father, Bernard, is a co-defendant along with Ferguson.
The main theme of the government’s case is that Kwame Kilpatrick ensured that Ferguson got city excavation work and then enjoyed the cash spoils. But he also is accused of strong-arming other contractors to give public jobs to Ferguson and shaking down businesses.
Chutkow posted a graph for jurors that looked like the rising stock price of a high-flying company. It showed a major spike in Kilpatrick’s cash deposits after he was elected in 2001.
Kilpatrick’s defense lawyer said his client simply saved money and got cash gifts from supporters at holidays and at birthdays, including a hotel party called “Splash of Red.”
It was “no splash of red,” the prosecutor countered. “It was a tidal wave of green.”
Defense attorneys said the government was trying to turn the defendants’ close relationships into criminal acts. They said Kilpatrick, who is black, wanted to help Ferguson, who is black, and other minority-owned businesses.
“That agenda was a smoke screen,” Chutkow told jurors. “They were equal opportunity extortionists. They drove out black and white contractors who got in their way, and they laughed at people when they came to the Kilpatrick administration for help.”
Kilpatrick resigned as mayor in 2008 due to another scandal. He pleaded guilty to obstructing justice by lying in a civil case about whether he had had sex with a top aide. He subsequently served 14 months in prison for violating his probation in that case.