08 December 2009

Kilpatrick Still Facing The Wrath Of Judges

Detroit Free Press

Kwame Kilpatrick’s day in court Monday ended the way it began — badly, and with a judge threatening a contempt hearing that could return him to jail.

For the fourth time in three months, prosecutors grilled the ex-Detroit mayor over whether he violated probation by failing to disclose assets in hearings that have unearthed revelation after revelation.

Today's shockers included Kilpatrick’s admission that he didn’t tell court officials about $20,000 in his bank account and $10,000 in the account of his wife, Carlita, despite orders to disclose his family’s assets. Prosecutors also revealed that Kilpatrick — whose lawyer has said he only had $6 a month left after expenses — spent more than $15,000 at the Plastic Surgery Center of Dallas on what Kilpatrick would describe only as “something very personal for my wife.”

Wayne County Circuit Judge David Groner warned Kilpatrick at the beginning and end of the hearing that he was not satisfied with a letter Kilpatrick provided explaining why the hearing had to be delayed for weeks.

The hearing was adjourned last month because Kilpatrick , who is now a computer software salesman, said it was critical that he be in Dallas to close a deal that could yield a $300,000 commission. Groner warned him at the time that he wanted a detailed letter from his employer confirming the importance of Kilpatrick’s presence.

After reviewing the letter, Groner started today's proceedings by saying, “I respectfully disagree with you that this answers the questions that I asked.”

He gave Kilpatrick 48 hours to come up with a better, more detailed letter — or face a contempt hearing that could ultimately land the ex-mayor back in jail.

It was an uncomfortable day for Kilpatrick on the witness stand.

For starters, prosecutors peppered him over his spending on everything from a $158 charge at a nail salon to a trip to a Gucci store to $800 for steaks to a $15,000 tab from a plastic surgery center.

Then, after grilling him about payments made by a non-profit fund to help his family move and rent a large home in Texas, prosecutors played two recordings of phone conversations between Kilpatrick and his wife, Carlita, made while the ex-mayor was in the Wayne County Jail.

Prosecutors played the tapes in an apparent bid to support their contention that Kilpatrick — who has testified he didn’t know who was paying the rent on his million-dollar home in Southlake, Texas — was very involved in negotiating lease deals for his family.

Prosecutors accuse Kilpatrick of spending lavishly while claiming he doesn’t have enough money to make restitution payments.

While listening to the recording of his wife telling him about their sons, Kilpatrick began tearing up and apparently became so moved that he walked out of the courtroom, stunning the judge.

Kilpatrick’s emotions covered the spectrum. At times defiant, sometimes compliant, he told prosecutors they weren’t interested in his ability to pay the city of Detroit $1 million in restitution, implying the hearing was more persecution than prosecution.

He declined to answer questions afterward, but his attorney, Michael Alan Schwartz, said he saw no point to the day’s proceedings, which continue Tuesday.

Schwartz, who also sparred with prosecutors, said they should be out looking at real crime.

In a day filled with revelations, several moments stood out.

Ex-mayor shied away from pressing wife for finances

Although Kilpatrick was supposed to disclose his wife’s finances to the court, he testified that he decided not to push the matter when she objected.

“I talked to my wife and we had a discussion and ... she then said that she’s not going to be a part of that and she’s not turning over to me anything to give to my lawyer.”

Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Robert Spada wasn’t satisfied.

“Did you think to ask your lawyers to subpoena Carlita’s records... to supply to the court?” he asked.

“I asked them for advice, I didn’t ask them to subpoena her records,” Kilpatrick replied.

$850,000 from political war chest was paid to attorneys

Spada also quizzed Kilpatrick on why he didn’t tap his mayoral campaign war chest to help pay off $1 million restitution to the city he agreed to as part of his plea deal to resolve criminal charges stemming from the text scandal.

Kilpatrick, who also pleaded guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice, agreed to surrender his law license and not to run for office for five years. He must pay the $1 million before his five-year probationary period is up.

Kilpatrick says one of his lawyers advised that he did not have to use his political funds for restitution.

Instead, he paid about $850,000 to his attorneys from his re-election account, and wrote checks to a cousin and to the charity run by his sister.

Kilpatrick cousin Jacquelyn Watts, a former mayoral appointee, received $3,000 from his campaign fund. Watts was the bookkeeper for the fund.

The Next Vision Foundation, the Kilpatrick family charity run by his sister, Ayanna Kilpatrick, received a $5,000 payment.

When Spada asked Kilpatrick if he saw that his restitution order said all political funds were supposed to be used for restitution, the former mayor said, “I didn’t understand that one, either.”

Kilpatrick said he still owes about $650,000 to his lawyers. That amount doesn’t include whatever he owes Schwartz and Daniel Hajji, who are representing him in the restitution hearing.

Kilpatrick invokes privileges for defendants

On about 10 occasions, Kilpatrick invoked privileges afforded defendants.

He used the spousal privilege, which keeps conversations between husbands and wives private, and the Fifth Amendment defense against self-incrimination to avoid answering questions.

Kilpatrick generally used those protections when he was asked about his financial transactions.

Jailhouse conversations confirm he's no fan of Worthy

Even before Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy charged Kilpatrick in 2008 with multiple felonies stemming from the text message scandal, Kilpatrick has not been a fan of Worthy.

Kilpatrick confirmed that he said “When we get the loot, we’re going to take her all the way out” to his wife during a phone call he made from jail. But Kilpatrick said he was not threatening Worthy.

The ex-mayor said he meant: “When we get the million dollars to pay off the restitution, the prosecutor will be out of the process.”

Carlita Kilpatrick wasn’t a fan, either.

During one of the jail calls, recording in November 2008, she said, as if addressing Worthy directly: “You will be forgiven up until this point right here. This is your last chance. After this, we’re going to whip the wrath of God on you.”

Kilpatrick and his wife likely knew their conversations were recorded: Calls made from the jail start with an automated warning that “This call is subject to monitoring and recording.”

Judge displeased by Team Kilpatrick's late return from lunch

Kilpatrick’s penchant for answering questions with long explanations irritated Judge Groner at several points in the hearing.

But nothing bothered the judge as much as when Kilpatrick and his legal team returned 17 minutes late from lunch at the Pegasus restaurant in nearby Greektown.

“If anyone could take time, it’s me, because it’s my court,” said Groner, who added that he didn’t have time to eat. “My position is if you set a time and date to be here, I find it kind of unusual that you would act like it’s no big deal.”

“"I don’t feel that it’s no big deal and I do apologize to the court and I’m sincerely sorry,”" Schwartz said.

Kilpatricks still tell each other, 'I love you'

Despite Kilpatrick’s affairs, the public scrutiny and, ultimately, the humiliation of having their private lives on the front pages, the recorded conversations indicate that Carlita and Kwame Kilpatrick still love each other.

After telling each other “I love you,” Kilpatrick told his wife to complete the search for their new home with this charge: “Go ahead and find us a crib.”

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