Bobby Ferguson pictured above. Art by Lauren Davies for Deadline Detroit.
By Allan Lengel
DETROIT — He was Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s good buddy, his confidante, his favorite city contractor.
But Bobby Ferguson managed to turn off many in Kilpatrick’s inner circle.
Contractors and city officials — including Victor Mercado, the head of the water department — complained about Ferguson.
Even Kilpatrick’s sister, Ayanna, found Ferguson a big headache who wouldn’t go away.
“Here we go with the Bobby bull again,” Ayanna texted mayoral insider Derrick Miller, complaining that her brother kept feeding Ferguson city business — at the expense of her the clients she represented.
As the Kwame Kilpatrick trial moved into the New Year, prosecutors this week homed in on Ferguson, a co-defendant, who the feds have portrayed as a bully who illegally conspired with Kilpatrick to rig city construction contracts and extort contractors for a piece of their action.
In turn, the feds allege that Ferguson gave Kilpatrick kickbacks from the demolition and excavation work. Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard, a business consultant, is the other co-defendant in the trial that began in September and is likely to go at least into February.
DETROIT — Ex-Hip hop Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was nowhere to be seen. He wasn’t on trial. He wasn’t in the gallery.
But his presence Tuesday was undeniable. His good buddy, contractor Bobby Ferguson, went on trial in downtown Detroit in a $12-million bid-rigging case involving a low-income housing project and allegations about money laundering and hidden safes flush with cash.
If it weren’t for Kwame, why else would the U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade have bothered to sit in on the opening statements? Why else would it generate intense press interest? Allegations against an ordinary businessman; who would pay that much attention?
Ferguson is no Bernie Madoff. He’s no Jeff Skilling, the CEO of Enron.
But he is FOK (Friend of Kwame), and in this town that’s big. Plus, it reminds us of the very shady, ugly dealings of the Kilpatrick administration and the lengthy FBI probe into city hall corruption.
DETROIT -- Does race matter when it comes to jury selection?
Yes, yes, yes.
I can say so, at least from my first-hand experience as a juror.
But before I go there, let me explain why I bring this up.
Last week, during jury selection in the high-profile federal corruption trial in Detroit of Bobby Ferguson, a pal of ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, the defense filed a motion asking that the judge do the jury selection all over again because there weren’t enough African-Americans on the panel. The judge has yet to rule on the matter and jury selection continued on Monday.
At the same time, a prospective juror told the Detroit News that she thought she was bounced from the jury pool because she was black and her appearance (she had tattoos).
It reminded of me when I served on a jury in D.C. Superior Court in 1999.
I was a reporter at the Washington Post at the time, covering crime. The jury was composed of six blacks and six whites, all residents of D.C.
DETROIT — The feds in the Motown just keep digging a deeper and deeper hole for Kwame Kilpatrick, the ex-mayor Detroit who was once dubbed the “Hip Hop Mayor.”
The Detroit Free Press reports that Kilpatrick and longtime friend Bobby Ferguson were charged Wednesday in a superseding indictment with extortion involving the shakedown of a towing contractor. Ferguson and Kilpatrick had already been charged with a slew of public corruption charges.
Ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, already facing an avalanche of legal trouble, was hammered again on Wednesday when a federal grand jury in Detroit indicted him, his father, a city contractor and former aides on public corruption charges centering on government contracts and kickbacks.
In announcing the 38-count indictment at a televised afternoon press conference, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said Kilpatrick used “his public office as a corrupt organization.” Authorities said the probe was ongoing for six-years.
Kilpatrick, 40, once dubbed the “hip hop mayor”, is currently in prison, serving time for failing to pay $1 million in restitution after he pleaded in 2008 to obstruction of justice charges for lying about an affair with his chief of staff and about the discharge of a police official while under oath during a whistle-blower lawsuit. The lies were revealed in Kilpatrick’s text messages the Detroit Free Press published.
He was sentenced in May to 18 months to 5 years in prison for violating his probation.
A month later, he was indicted by a federal grand jury on 19 federal counts including mail fraud, wire fraud, tax evasion and filing a false tax return. He was Detroit mayor from 2002 to 2008.
Others indicted Wednesday included Kilpatrick’s father Bernard Kilpatrick, city contractor Bobby Ferguson, former top Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller and former water department chief Victor Mercado.
The indictment alleged that the defendants extorted money from municipal contracts and were knee-deep in bribery.
Authorities alleged that city contractor Ferguson kicked back at least $424,000 in cash and other items of value to Mayor Kilpatrick, and that the mayor used more than $590,000 of ill-gotten cash from the conspiracy to pay off credit card bills, buy clothes and pay off loans.
Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick, who had long been under federal investigation, allegedly put $600,000 in cash into his bank accounts and was charged with filing false tax returns.
U.S. Attorney McQuade, addressing criticisms that her office is piling on charges, said the new charges were far more significant than the ones Kilpatrick has faced in the past two years. Plus, she said she wanted to send a message to politicians that leaving office doesn’t get you off the hook.