Victor Mercado pleads guilty in Kilpatrick corruption trial

Victor Mercado pleads guilty in Kwame Kilpatrick corruption trial

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Victor Mercado leaves federal court in downtown Detroit Monday  (Credit: Fox 2 News) Victor Mercado leaves federal court in downtown Detroit Monday (Credit: Fox 2 News)

DETROIT (WJBK) -- There was a bombshell Monday in the federal corruption trial of Kwame Kilpatrick.  Co-defendant Victor Mercado pled guilty.

Mercado was facing up to 20 years in prison, but instead of taking his chances with a jury, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion in return for a sentence of 18 months or less in prison.

"This is the right decision at the right time and a good plea offer," said Mercado attorney Martin Crandall.

The former Detroit Water Department director walked into court Monday an innocent man.  An hour later, he walked out a different man, a guilty man, a relieved man.

"I'm sure he's greatly relieved," said attorney John Minock.

For more than a month, his attorneys argued passionately and persuasively that Mercado was not part of the "circle of trust".  That's the term they coined to describe the relationship between Kwame Kilpatrick, his father, Bernard, and contractor Bobby Ferguson.

Kilpatrick attorney Jim Thomas said Mercado's sudden guilty plea came as a surprise, but should not hurt the former mayor's chances.

"This is one of several cases that I've had -- the terrorist case, the Fourth Precinct corruption case and, most recently, the Hutaree case -- where co-defendants have agreed to plea guilty and then everybody gets acquitted."

Fox 2 legal analyst Charlie Langton isn't so sure.

"This is huge.  You've got a high level ranking member of the water department now pleading guilty to conspiracy and conspiracy with Kwame Kilpatrick.  Oh my gosh, this is a major, major breakthrough for the government and a big win for the government."

Minock told me after the plea that the possibility of a heavy sentence weighed on Mercado.  He felt leaving his fate up to a jury on a circumstantial case was just too much of a gamble, a gamble that could've resulted in a prison sentence so long it would effectively be a death sentence.

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