Kilpatrick fundraiser likely to face questions about her conduct

Kilpatrick fundraiser likely to face questions about her conduct

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DETROIT -- Kwame Kilpatrick's chief fundraiser is expected to testify Thursday that she gave kickbacks to the former mayor, but Emma Bell will also have to answer more than a few questions about her own conduct.

Bell has problems, gambling problems, drinking problems, tax problems, and maybe even a little problem with the truth.

Bell gambled away more than $2 million at Greektown Casino.  The question is did any of that money end up in the mayor's pocket?

IRS agent Ron Sauer says yes.  He testified Wednesday that Bell kicked back half of every fundraising fee she received that was more than $25,000.

But under cross examination by Kilpatrick attorney Jim Thomas, Sauer acknowledged that her story changed.  She said she gave Kilpatrick half of every fee worth $5,000 or more.

Defense attorney Jim Thomas asked, "What was her justification?"

Sauer replied, "She didn't want to make Mayor Kilpatrick look petty by accepting cash kickbacks of less than $5,000."

Thomas also asked Sauer if it was possible Bell actually gambled away the money she said she gave to Kilpatrick.

Sauer said he considered that, but believes the money ended up as part of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash Kilpatrick collected as mayor.

I asked Thomas to comment on Bell's problems, but for now at least, he's taking the high road.

"Is Emma a drunk gambler or a drunk gambler liar?" I asked him.

"Wow, well, those are hard words.  We'll see what she has to say about that tomorrow," Thomas replied.

Thomas is almost certain to take a much different tone when Bell shows up on the witness stand.  He's certain to bring up Bell's plea deal in her tax evasion case.  She's hoping for a lighter sentence in return for her testimony against Kilpatrick, a man she has reportedly said she considers "like a son".

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