Texts indicate Ferguson sewed up deals with free suits - KMSP-TV

Texts indicate Ferguson sewed up deals with free suits

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DETROIT (WJBK) -

New texts in the Kilpatrick Incorporated trial indicate Bobby Ferguson got favors from friends in high places and raise troubling questions about whether recreation officials sold out taxpayers for a pair of pants.

Ferguson's team didn't have the best plan to build a new Heilmann Recreation Center on Detroit's east side, but they had the best friends.

At least that's the impression FBI agent Bob Beeckman gave jurors.  He read text messages suggesting Christine Beatty used her influence with the head of the Detroit Building Authority, Elizabeth Ayanna Benson.  Benson, by the way, just happens to be the mayor's cousin.

In texts sent on the day the Heilmann deal was announced, Ferguson wrote to Beatty: Thank you, I love you, you are for sure my sister.

Beatty: What did I do?

Ferguson: Benson.

Beatty: Oh. You know I was going to take care of you!

Ferguson: Thank you.

Ferguson attorney Gerald Evelyn cautioned reporters that the messages might not mean what we think they mean.

"I think you guys are reading them the wrong way and that's not the whole story.  That's all I can tell you.  I've told you a hundred times wait until the evidence is all in," he said.

But prosecutors say Ferguson also used his influence to get work on a new Patton Park Recreation Center.

Text messages indicate Nick the Tailor's shop was where Ferguson sewed up a couple recreation department deals by buying free suits for city officials.

Prosecutors say rec department executives Lee Stephenson and Vincent Anwunah got the suits.  Text messages show Ferguson got more than a city contract.  He got respect.

Prosecutor Jennifer Blackwell, referring to text messages, asked Beeckman: How did Mr. Anwunah refer to Mr. Ferguson during this time?

Beeckman: He called him "boss".

Evelyn wouldn't say whether Ferguson bought suits for city officials, but he suggested there's nothing wrong with hooking a bureaucrat up with some free duds.

"It's not a problem if it's not against the law," he said.

I can't say whether it's against the law, but another witness testified that taking anything of value from a city contractor would have been a violation of city policy.  Of chouse, Kilpatrick took plenty of swag while in office, a subject you can read more about in my "Daily Takeaway".

Question and Answer

HUEL PERKINS: You mentioned that Kilpatrick's cousin was running the building authority.  When did she get that job?

ELRICK: That's a story I broke way back in 2002.  It's interesting.  She was just a bureaucrat in the Planning Department and unlike other cities who put building officials, people with a background in contracting and building and architecture, to run their building authorities, Kwame Kilpatrick picked this little known bureaucrat, who happened to be his cousin, and put her in charge of a pretty significant city department.

PERKINS: According to testimony, Christine Beatty was helping to steer contracts to Bobby Ferguson.  Why isn't she on trial too?

ELRICK: That's a question that a lot of people are asking.  We don't have an answer to that, but I think if we get to the end of this and can really get people to talk frankly, we're going to find out that there was some debate in the federal agencies as to whether or not Christine Beatty and maybe some other people should have been charged, as well.  Ultimately the prosecutors decided to narrow this case down to five.  Two have reached plea deals.  We're left with these three, but we're going to hear Christine Beatty's name a lot more before this over and the real question is are we going to see her in court.  I'm betting we won't, but with this case you just never know.

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