Testimony brings back memories of Abner McWhorter

Testimony brings back memories of Abner McWhorter

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Abner McWhorter (From isttd.org) Abner McWhorter (From isttd.org)
DETROIT (WJBK) -

Some days, the testimony in the Kilpatrick & Co. trial makes me feel like I'm in a time machine.

There are flashes back to situations I investigated, some of which made headlines, while others still languish in a file, waiting for a final piece of the puzzle to surface.

There are memories of faces and places I've encountered in the more than 11 years since I met Kwame Kilpatrick.

The name that triggered one of those flashbacks on Tuesday was Abner McWhorter. Prosecutors played a recording of McWhorter speaking with Bernard Kilpatrick in 2008. On the tape, Bernard Kilpatrick calls McWhorter and says the city treasurer is putting on a fundraiser for the Kilpatrick Civic Fund and would appreciate a donation.

"If you can do five, that would be real cool," the elder Kilpatrick tells McWhorter.

Bernard Kilpatrick's lawyer pointed out that McWhorter was a client of the elder Kilpatrick and suggested that B.K. was just advising him.

McWhorter won't be taking the stand to rebut him. The Detroit entrepreneur committed suicide last year amid accusations he was involved in a Ponzi scheme that defrauded the pension fund.

Robert Snell
of the Detroit News has reported that the pension fund is trying to recover $10 million in the wake of the failed deal involving McWhorter that called for buying and restoring more than 1,400 foreclosed homes in Metro Detroit.

That got me thinking that if McWhorter were still with us, the pension fund might want to hire me to get their dough back.

See, I first met McWhorter around 2002, when he was just ripping off freelance writers. At the time, he was running an automotive magazine. Several of my friends and colleagues at the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News were doing work for hire for McWhorter. I was always looking for a little extra cash, so they suggested I ask him to assign me some stories.

For reasons lost in the fog of time, my wife ended up doing stories for McWhorter instead of me. Good thing, too, because he stiffed her on her last assignment.

Around that time, I was still on very good terms with Kilpatrick and his administration. It seems incredible now, but for the first 18 months or so of their reign, Kilpatrick and his trusted lieutenant Derrick Miller took turns trying to lure me from the Free Press. Things were so cordial, in fact, that I spent one evening "source building" over drinks at Half Past Three, the Grand River club that was not only a favorite hangout of Kilpatrick's crew, but the supposed scene of a never-proven hit-and-run accident involving one of Hizzoner's police bodyguards.

As the hours and the ice in my highball glass melted away, my companion, then-Kilpatrick spokesman Jamaine Dickens, drifted away and became involved in a conversation with a guy I had never met before. After waiting for Dickens to wrap it up and return to the barstools, it dawned on me that the only person getting more impatient than me would be my wife, who had expected me home long ago.

So I walked over to Dickens and his companion, hovering next to them and essentially becoming hard to ignore me.

Dickens acknowledged my presence and introduced me to his friend, telling me, "This is Abner McWhorter."

I shook McWhorter's hand, holding it beyond the point where most men are comfortable, and said something to the effect of, "I don't think we've ever met, but I believe you know my wife."

I continued to grip the hand of the dapper but diminutive McWhorter as I told him my wife's name and said "You owe her $400 you sonofabitch."

With a calm surprising for a man who had angry freelancers dotting the metro area, McWhorter reached in his pants pocket and pulled out a roll of bills that could have plugged a drain pipe.

"I've got your money right here," he said, peeling off four $100 bills.

Stunned but pleased, I returned to the bar for another drink, figuring that my success as an ad hoc debt collector had earned me a later curfew.

I would learn later, to my chagrin, that I was sure wrong about that!

I bring all this up not to cast aspersions on the dead, but to muse over the possibility that, had the pension fund known this story, they could have engaged me to try and get their dough back.

And with a 10 percent collection fee, I'm pretty sure I could stay out all night this time -- without getting hit with a frying pan!

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. And catch him every Friday morning around 7:15 a.m. on Drew & Mike on WRIF, 101.1 FM.

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