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Ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Was Swimming in Cash, Prosecutor Says

Kwame Kilpatrick top (right) leaves court at close of first day of trial. /Deadline Detroit photo

By Allan Lengel
For Deadline Detroit

DETROIT — The prosecution lit into Kwame Kilpatrick in opening arguments today, and the defense countered with sharp criticism of the charges. By 1:55p.m., the first day of battle was over, opening the way for the government to call its first witnesses on Monday in the biggest case in Detroit history in memory.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow began the morning by carving up Kilpatrick, claiming as mayor he rigged tens of millions of dollars in contracts for his friend Bobby Ferguson and his father Bernard while lining his own pockets with bribes and kickbacks. He said if Ferguson didn’t get a piece of a contract, Victor Mercado, the head of the water and sewerage department at the time, would hold up or cancel the contract.

Kilpatrick faces 32 counts of public corruption along with co-defendants Ferguson, a close friend and contractor; father Bernard who had a consulting firm; and Mercado.

The prosecution tried painting Kilpatrick as man with plenty of questionable cash. Chutkow said he had at least $540,000 in cash above his paycheck during his mayoral reign, and suggested there was more beyond what the government could document. He noted that Kilpatrick would regularly go to the bank and ended up turning over some $280,000 in cash to pay for credit card debt.

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