DETROIT — Large amounts of cash that Kwame Kilpatrick deposited into bank accounts may have been gifts or money that he had saved for years and stored at home, the former Detroit mayor's lawyer suggested Monday.
Prosecutors went right to the money in the first day of evidence in Kilpatrick's corruption trial, showing jurors a $4,000 cash deposit slip he used in 2005. Kilpatrick is charged with committing fraud, bribery, tax crimes and a racketeering conspiracy before resigning from office in 2008.
Internal Revenue Service agent Ron Sauer said the government traced $531,000 in cash transactions from 2001, when Kilpatrick was elected mayor, through 2008. The transactions included deposits, payments on his credit card and cashier's checks, and compared starkly to the few if any cash transactions made at banks before he became mayor.
On cross-examination, defense attorney James Thomas suggested the cash could have been gifts or simply transferred to banks after Kilpatrick had saved it under his bed or in shoes.
"Depending on how big the shoe is," Sauer replied when asked if that was possible.
"Well, this guy's got big feet," Thomas said of the 6'4" former college football player.
Later, Chad Smith, a police officer who was assigned to protect Kilpatrick's wife and children, testified that he once retrieved $1,500 from Kilpatrick's shoes to pay a credit card bill.
Thomas asked another witness if he recalled Don Barden, a late businessman, pledging $5,000 and urging people to give cash gifts at a 2006 birthday party for Kilpatrick. Dwayne Love, an officer assigned to mayoral security at the time, said he doesn't remember the pitch.
Kilpatrick's father, Bernard, city contractor Bobby Ferguson and former Detroit water boss Victor Mercado are also on trial.
The government alleges that Kwame Kilpatrick rigged contracts to benefit Ferguson's construction company and got a share of the spoils. The former mayor also is accused of abusing a nonprofit fund for personal use and shaking down businesses that wanted city work.
A former Kilpatrick bodyguard, police Sgt. Jefferson Travis, said he regularly accompanied him to Ferguson's offices but stayed outside any meetings between the two and never saw money change hands.
"I didn't believe it was shady, no sir," Travis said on cross-examination, referring to the Kilpatrick-Ferguson relationship.
Jurors heard opening statements Friday in a trial that could stretch into next year.
Kilpatrick, 42, a Democrat and son of ex-U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, was a state lawmaker when he was elected mayor in 2001. He resigned in 2008 and pleaded guilty to obstructing justice by lying in a civil case about having sex with an aide. He subsequently served 14 months in prison for violating probation in that case.
Follow Ed White on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com