John Rutherford says he spent over $400K on the Kilpatricks

Detroit businessman says he shelled out over $400K on the Kilpatricks

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John Rutherford outside of federal court on Thursday. John Rutherford outside of federal court on Thursday.

By M.L. Elrick
FOX 2 News Investigative Reporter

DETROIT (WJBK) - The Kilpatrick & Co. trial entered a new phase Thursday with prosecutors accusing the mayor and his minions of extorting big bucks from contractors.

The feds first witness was a homeless shelter operator who said he shelled out over $400,000 on the Kilpatricks and their many endeavors.

John Rutherford made a bundle running a Hamtramck homeless shelter. But it was his politics that landed him in hot water with the IRS, and ultimately, a turn on the witness stand. Rutherford testified Thursday that he and his company spent over $100,000 helping Kilpatrick get elected mayor, disguising the contributions to get around campaign finance laws.

Rutherford testified $50,000 went to Kilpatrick through his non-profit civic fund set up to help the city, not politicians. The scheme was first exposed by the Detroit Free Press, but they only scratched the surface. Rutherford testified that he gave plenty more, once giving Kilpatrick $10,000 to buy suits when the mayor hit him up for cash on the eve of a trip to Dubai.

The mayor's father, Bernard, scored big too, collecting more than $100,000 without doing any work. Bernard offered no comment when asked following Thursday's testimony. Rutherford too wouldn't talk after testifying but his comments in court painted a devastating picture of Detroit politics - an arena where businessmen looking to make friends write huge checks.

One reason why Rutherford played the game was to get Kilpatrick's support to replace Cobo Hall with a casino and convention center. Rutherford said that Kilpatrick would have supported the plan anyway, but when prosecutors asked if he would have given Kilpatrick any money if he wasn't mayor, Rutherford answered "nope."

Defense attorneys haven't had their chance to cross examine Rutherford yet. But when they do, you can bet they'll have plenty to say about his plea deal on tax charges and his hope that testifying against the Kilpatricks will shorten that sentence.

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