Has the prosecution scored any points in the Kilpatrick trial?

Has the prosecution scored any points in the Kilpatrick trial?

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Week Two of the so-called Kilpatrick Enterprise trial is behind us and there's a sense the prosecution put some points on the board.

Or did they?

Using a series of state bureaucrats, a nonprofit official, businessmen and former political associates of Kwame Kilpatrick, the feds established the following:

  • Kilpatrick used his position as Democratic Leader in the Michigan House to steer more than half a million dollars in state grant money to family and friends -- much of which likely was not spent for the purpose for which it was intended;

  • Kilpatrick received hundreds of thousands from his chief fundraiser, who says that while Hizzoner never explicitly demanded the money, she felt she had little choice but to deliver the loot to him in city hall and at the Manoogian Mansion in $10,000 bundles tucked inside her bra;

  • Kilpatrick tapped into the nonprofit he told donors he created to help Detroiters -- but not politicians -- to provide mondo support to one politician in particular: Kilpatrick himself.

It sure sounds sketchy -- a point defense attorneys all but concede.  But, as they've said from the start, immoral and even unethical behavior isn't necessarily illegal.

If anything, jurors got a good look at the sausage-making process Kilpatrick attorney Jim Thomas mentioned in his opening statement. To wit: Kilpatrick was an influential lawmaker; he told the state's top budget official he wanted two favored nonprofits to get big grants; the budget official made sure her underlings put those nonprofits on a short list of preferred projects; when the nonprofits had trouble complying with even the state's lax requirements, state officials did almost everything they could to be sure the nonprofits got as much money as they could -- even meeting with the lawmaker's staff to help them get their act together and extending deadlines to produce proper documentation.

Still, if we started charging lawmakers and bureaucrats who scratch each other's backs to keep Lansing lubricated, prison construction would be Michigan's healthiest industry.

The one thread that runs through the prosecution's case so far, however, is that Kilpatrick and, in some cases, his best friend and co-defendant Bobby Ferguson, used fraud to further what the feds have deemed a criminal enterprise.

The argument goes like this:

  • Kilpatrick and Ferguson defrauded the state by saying they would use money to help children and seniors, only to end up pocketing some of the dough and using a big chunk of the rest to rehab Ferguson's HQ and buy a house Ferguson and his wife later sold for twice what they (actually, taxpayers) paid for it;

  • Kilpatrick defrauded political supporters by saying he would use their contributions to further his political career, but instead skimmed hundreds of thousands by essentially laundering it through his chief fundraiser (this alleged scheme could also constitute extortion, though Kilpatrick never explicitly demanded the kickbacks, and tax evasion, if he never reported the income);

  • Kilpatrick defrauded contributors to his nonprofit by saying he would use their money to help the city when, in the end, he diverted tens of thousands to help get him elected -- an explicit contradiction of the nonprofit's pledge NOT to support the election of candidates.

Will jurors buy it?

It's way too early to say.

So my advice, to those of you keeping score at home, is to sit tight.  Trying to predict how this case will end is like trying to guess the subject of a 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle after you've only put together a few dozen pieces.

Follow M.L. Elrick's coverage of the Kilpatrick & Co. trial daily on Fox 2 and at www.myfoxdetroit.com. Contact him at ml.elrick@foxtv.com or via Twitter (@elrick) or Facebook.

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