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[January 29, 2013]
Prosecution uses text, secret phone recordings to show organized crime ring ran Kilpatrick's office
Jan 29, 2013 (Detroit Free Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Closing out its case against former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and two others, the federal government today unleashed a barrage of text messages and secret phone recordings as a sort of exclamation point on its claim that an organized crime ring ran the mayor's office.
Prosecutors played tapes of codefendant Bernard Kilpatrick's cell phone conversations and showed text messages over the years among the Kilpatricks, their codefendant, Bobby Ferguson, and key administration officials, such as Kwame Kilpatrick's former chief of staff, Christine Beatty.
In a phone call Nov. 15, 2007, Kwame Kilpatrick called his father and, as the tape shows, warned Bernard Kilpatrick to "stay away from the little guy for a minute. ... your favorite white brother." FBI Special Agent Robert Beeckman testified that the Kilpatricks spoke very carefully on the phone, and that the "little guy" was Mike Tardif, who worked as a political liaison in the mayor's office. Beeckman said he had visited Tardif for the first time just a week earlier and informed Tardif about the corruption investigation. Tardif told the mayor about the visit.
In text messages, the government tried to show Kwame Kilpatrick and Ferguson, his good friend, as a team bent on using the power of the office to get rich.
In text messages in May 2004, Ferguson mused about notoriety he was gaining in the news media.
"What have you gotten me into. Anything with Kwame Kill next to it is news worthy," Ferguson texted to the mayor. "I am famous now. Just need to get some money." Kilpatrick responded: "LOL, right. Let's get you some." Ferguson: "Us." In other text messages, Ferguson seemed to have inside information about city contracts and the ability to order up opposition against his competitors for lucrative projects.
In March 2003, he texted the mayor about a businessman who was trying to open the Club Rain strip club. Ferguson told Kwame Kilpatrick that his excavation company did some work there, but hadn't been paid.
"The white boy thinks he is slick," Ferguson texted. "Don't have any real money. FEI (Ferguson Enterprises, Inc.) did 20,000.00 job and he won't pay is it alright if BLDS safety f--- with his permit." Kilpatrick replied: "Will call later." Buildings and Safety Engineering was a city department that issued work permits.
In another phone call caught on tape, Bernard Kilpatrick tells Ferguson about an upcoming trip, and that Bernard needs cash: "I might need a couple, man. About two grand. ... Just have a couple in your back pocket, man, just in case." John Shea, Bernard Kilpatrick's lawyer, argued through cross-examination that the FBI has no proof Bernard ever got that money from Ferguson, and Beeckman agreed.
The defense didn't get a chance to cross-examine Beeckman on the other calls and text messages. That will happen when testimony resumes Thursday. There is no court Wednesday.
Beeckman is expected to be the last witness for the prosecution. Then the defense can call its own witnesses. Lawyers have said they expect the defense will take about two weeks.
The trial started in September.
The defendants face a host of criminal charges, including racketeering charges that carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years upon conviction.
Contact Jim Schaefer: 313-223-4542 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @DetroitReporter.
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