Poor Kwame, He Had Too Much Cash; Friend Passed $90,000 to Him

September 25, 2012, 9:38 AM by  Allan Lengel

Kwame3 Img 0398Poor Kwame Kilpatrick.

He's got a cash problem.

No, not a shortage. Too much.

On Monday, the feds produced bank statements showing that he deposited about $531,000 in cash -- beyond his paychecks -- while he was mayor from 2002 to 2008. He also used $280,000 in cash to pay off credit card debt. 

On Tuesday morning, on the third day of trial in federal court,  the prosecution delivered more damaging testimony about cash. The feds claim all his cash could only have come his way illegally,  arguing that there was no other obvious explanation.

Mahlon Clift, a close friend from college who considered the ex-mayor a "brother",  testified today that he came to Detroit from Chicago in 2008 to support Kilpatrick, who was having problems as mayor and at home. 

 While staying at the Atheneum hotel in Greektown, Clift, a jeweler,  said he got a call from contractor Bobby Ferguson, who was a friend and a close friend of Kilpatrick.

Ferguson came to the room and handed him a shopping bag with $90,000 and said for him to hold it for  "Black." Clift testified that he  understood the cash was for Kilpatrick, who Ferguson sometimes called "Black."  He said there were in nine stacks of $10,000, each with $100 and $50 bills.

Clift testified that he eventually took $50,000 to Kilpatrick in Dallas and later gave Kilpatrick the other $40,000 in Detroit in October, just days before Kilpatrick went to jail for the first time for after pleading guilty to two counts of obstructing justice and no contest to felonious assault on a sheriff's deputy. 

Clift's credibility was bolstered by the fact he considered Kilpatrick like a brother and said he was uncomfortable testifying today and before the grand jury.  He testified before the grand jury under an immunity agreement, and said his mother, who is a lawyer, suggested he get one.

Kilpatrick is charged with a host of public corruption charges, along with Bobby Ferguson, Kilpatrick's father Bernard Kilpatrick and ex-water department boss Victor Mercado. 

The feds are alleging that Kilpatrick helped rig city contracts for Ferguson, who gave him kickbacks. 

During cross examination, one of Ferguson's attorney's Mike Rataj, tried to shake up Clift, trying to get him to pinpoint dates.  He also got Clift to say that Ferguson only told him to hold the cash for Kilpatrick, and not explicitly to pass on the cash.

Clift testified earlier that he introduced Kilpatrick to his wife Carlita at college.

Ferguson's wife is in court today. One reporter noted that a juror kept falling asleep and that Kilpatrick, who was wearing a red bow tie, had bowed his head and clasped his hands for a few minutes before testimony began as if he were praying. 

Update: 11 a.m. -- Under cross examination by Kilpatrick's attorney James Thomas, Clift said Kilpatrick's staff bought a Rolex watch for Kilpatrick from him for about $20,000.

He also said that Kilpatrick bought a bracelet in 2004 for about $11,000 to $15,000 and paid in installments. Clift said his supplier became a little concerned when the payments weren't made in a timely manner. Thomas asked him if he thought money wasn't easy to come by for Kilpatrick back in 2004, and Clift agreed.

Thomas tried to hammer away at Clift, and discredit him. Thomas suggested that Clift wanted immunity because he transported the $90,000 on a plane and was concerned it might be illegal to do that. Clift said he didn't know if it was illegal.

Clift said he never saw Ferguson give money to Kilpatrick and that he never saw the mayor with large sums of money, just crumpled up $20 bill. He said it bugged him to see him crumple his money. 

During the re-cross by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Bullota, Clift said he volunteered the information about the $90,000 because he just wanted to tell the truth.  He said he wasn't worried about being prosecuted and never got an attorney. But he said his mother did push for an immunity deal.  

Thomas again stepped up to the podium. Clift said he was absolutely sure the $90,000 transaction took place, but he couldn't remember some dates and other details surrounding the cash. 

12:15 p.m.-- Detroit Police officer Michael Fountain, who was working the environmental unit in 2001, testified that he issued four tickets to Ferguson's business for trash, inoperable vehicles, high weeds and other eyesores. He went back and saw that the items had not been removed.  He said each time he went back, some of the trash was being moved from  Ferguson's property to the city property that abutted his property. He was issued additional tickets for moving the debris onto the city property.

When they appeared in 36th District Court  court on the tickets, he met with Ferguson to try and work out something and get the property cleaned up. He said Ferguson gave him a hard time and said "Do you know who I am?" He said he didn't. He said Ferguson was wearing a Kilpatrick campaign button. He said Ferguson claimed the mess not on his property but the city's.  He said Ferguson left without resolving anything. 

At trial in February 2001, he said Ferguson showed up with two police officers in plainclothes. He knew one, Mike Martin, who was on the mayor's security detail.

He said someone summoned him out in the hall way where Ferguson, flanked by the two cops, told him it would be best to dismiss the tickets.

He said Ferguson said something about his family and that "something could happen." He said he wasn't worried about himself, but he had concerns about his family's safety.

"I felt threatened."

As a result, he told the judge and prosecutor that he had made a mistake issuing the tickets and that the trash was on the city property that abutted his property.  The tickets were dismissed. Asked by the prosecutor this morning whether he had actually made a mistake, he said no. 

He said in 2005, he was contacted by an FBI agent about the incident. And in 2009, he testified about it before a grand jury.

12: 42 p.m. Under cross examination. Gerald Evelyn, one of Ferguson's attorney's, tried to suggest that it seemed unlikely that someone could threaten him in 36th District Court in front of other cops. 

Prosecutor Bullota asked him: "Do you have a grudge against Bobby Ferguson? No, he said, he just wanted to clean up the property.  He did admit, under questioning again from Evelyn,  that his initial reaction when getting threatened by Ferguson was to kick his ass. 

Court ended around 12:45 p.m.  There will be no trial on Wednesday because of Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday. Trial resumes on Thursday.

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