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. Mr. Kilpatrick is charged with committing fraud, bribery, tax crimes, and a racketeering conspiracy before resigning from office in 2008.
Ron Sauer, an Internal Revenue Service agent, 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 they 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 Mr. Kilpatrick had saved it under his bed or in shoes. “Depending on how big the shoe is,” Mr. Sauer replied when asked if that was possible.
“Well, this guy’s got big feet,” Mr. Thomas said of the 6 foot, 4 inch 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.
Mr. 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 Mr. 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 and never saw money change hands.
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. He was found guilty that year of obstructing justice after falsely denying, while on the stand in a civil trial, extramarital relations with his chief of staff, Christine Beatty.