Contractor testifies he feared angering Bobby Ferguson

Contractor testifies he feared angering Bobby Ferguson

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DETROIT (WJBK) -

A Detroit contractor testified Friday that he was so afraid of angering Bobby Ferguson that he paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars for work he didn't do, even though that left little profit for him and his company -- the guys who put the deal together in the first place.

Avinash Rachmale said he lived in fear -- fear of angering Ferguson, who he believes killed two of his water department deals worth $15 million.

Rachmale testified that in 2008, his Lakeshore engineering firm paid Ferguson's Xcel $200,000, even though it didn't do any work.

Ferguson attorney Mike Rataj said Rachmale is the one who got fat on city contracts.

"They made $157 million during the Kilpatrick administration.  What do you call that?  Happy Thanksgiving, baby."

Rachmale insists he was so afraid of losing contracts that he told has pal Thomas Hardiman to cool it after he found out Hardiman and Ferguson had been feuding.

Rachmale testified that Ferguson requested a meeting.  He went from his headquarters at Lakeshore to the St. Regis Hotel where he said that over lunch Ferguson told him if they didn't resolve a dispute, it's going to hurt his company.

But Rataj said that's baloney.

"There is no climate of fear.  There's never been any credible evidence establishing a climate of fear, and they'll never be able to establish a climate of fear.  Words that come to mind are duplicity and hypocrisy."

Rachmale acknowledged that Ferguson never explicitly threatened to have his contracts pulled and he never feared for his safety.  That could complicate the government's case.

"This is the construction industry where you have people with some rather sharp elbows who use colorful language, and so where does it go from perception to reality, and that's the problem that the government faces in this case," said Wayne State law professor Peter Henning.

Rachmale may have some problems of his own when defense attorneys get their turn to question him after Thanksgiving.

"I would describe what you heard this morning as kin to the process of when you fatten up the turkey," said Rataj.  "The cross exam is when you kill the turkey and that's what's coming."

Among the questions Rachmale will almost certainly have to answer is why Lakeshore sent letters praising Ferguson's work after Kilpatrick left office presumably taking the culture of fear along with him.

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