Attorneys Finish Closing Arguments In Kilpatrick Trial; Case Soon Will Go To Jury
Sure, Bernard Kilpatrick had connections in city hall. After, all his son Kwame Kilpatrick was mayor.
But on Thursday morning in federal court, Bernard’s attorney John Shea hammered away in what was arguably a very effective closing argument, insisting there was nothing illegal about Bernard Kilpatrick, the consultant, having connections in city hall that could benefit his business clients.
Shea conceded that his client had an inside track on getting a meeting with his son about businesses, something other consultants wanted to do as well.
"Maybe it's unfair, but it's not illegal," Shea said.
"Bernard Kilpatrick was doing legitimate work for legitimate clients and getting paid for it...or sometimes not getting paid for it."
Kilpatrick, 71, is on trial with his son, Kwame Kilpatrick, and Bobby Ferguson, a city contractor who was a close friend of the ex-mayor. He faces tax charges and allegations that as a consultant he used his son to extort money from businesses, who allegedly had to pay up lose out on a contract.
But Shea, during his two hour closing, said his client may have known how to work the system, but he did so legitimately. He noted that Bernard was politically connected beyond his son and had worked as chief staff for Wayne County Executive Ed McNamara.
During the five month trial, business people testified that they had to repeatedly give Kilpatrick consulting payments to get contracts with the city. But Shea tried to discredit them all, saying the business people were the “manipulators” who were now trying to portray themselves as victims.
“It’s ludicrous,” Shea said. “This is ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ down the rabbit hole kind of stuff."
He said his client “was looking at angles…but doing it legally… “I am not trying to make him out to be a saint,. He’s an old basketball player who knows how to mix it up. I’m sure he could throw an elbow if he had to. But he is not guilty of these charges." Bernard Kilpatrick played basketball for Ferris State.
“You are not here to decide whether he is a saint,” Shea continued. “Canonization is not a part of your deliberations. You have to acquit him.”
Shea pointed out that things were on the up, and if they weren’t, certainly Bernard would have always gotten his way in city hall with his son. But he didn’t.
“He wasn’t always successful as a consultant,” Shea said. “He didn’t get what he wanted all the time. Bernard Kilpatrick took his lumps like other people did.
After the Lunch Break
After the lunch break, Gerald Evelyn, Ferugson's attorney, delivered his closing arguments. He started out strong, attacking the government's case and assuring the jury that his client ran a legitimate construction business that often subcontracted for excavation work. He also thanked the jurors by agreeing to serve, and help provide a racial diverse panel representative of the region.
The government has alleged that Ferguson extorted city contractors to get work. If contractors didn't give in to his wishes, he got Kilpatrick to withhold contracts, the government claims.
But Evelyn said that was nonsense and at one point called the government "criminally incompetent."
“The government and the media have demonized…Mr. Kilpatrick and by extension, Mr. Ferguson," Evelyn said.
In the middle of the closing, Evelyn got bogged down in the minutia of several contracts involving Ferguson, and it was a little hard to track. Even Ferguson looked a little distracted at one point and began chatting with Kwame Kilpatrick.
Evelyn got back on track and went on to try and discredit some of the contractors like businessman Tony Soave, who claimed they had to hire Ferguson and bribe Kilpatrick to get contracts.
Evelyn insisted Soave, a tough multi-billionaire, could not be intimidated.
"Tony Soave's not going to be pushed around," Evelyn said. In fact, he said, Soave told Ferguson to go "F-himself" when Ferguson tried to get in on a contract.
Evelyn also noted that the government had shown photos of money seized from Ferguson's home and workplace in 2009 and 2010 in another case, and alleged that Ferguson gave some of that money to Kilpatrick for helping rig some contracts.
He said the government had no proof that any of Ferguson's hard-earned money went to Kilpatrick, only that Ferguson did buy equipment. He also said it was not a crime to have a lot of cash on hand.
Evelyn gently danced around race.
He said unlike some other companies, Ferguson was not a "pass through" company that was created as a front for white companies to do business in the city. He said that would be like profiting from the Civil Rights Movement.
Evelyn portrayed his client as competitive businessman who was no pushover.
"Bobby Ferguson is a tough minded, sometimes course, always animated...active person. That's how he's survived, that's how he's succeeded in business."
Evelyn returned to his earlier theme at the onset of his closing arguments, and urged the jury to make the right decision, and not worry what others might think of their decision.
Then Evelyn got emotional and choked up.
Referring to a Martin Luther King quote, he said: "The ultimate measure of a man or a woman is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand in moments of controversy.
The government is slated Friday to deliver a final rebuttal to the defense's closing arguments. Afterwards, the judge will give instructions to the jury. It's unclear if the jury will begin deliberating Friday afternoon or begin next week. Court is closed next Monday for a holiday.
It's hard to predict how long jury deliberations in a case like this can last. But it's very possible it could take 10 days to two weeks considering the jury has to examine each count. Kwame Kilpatrick faces 30 criminal counts. Ferguson faces 11 and Bernard Kilpatrick, 4.