Kilpatrick’s aide to cooperate with prosecutors in corruption case

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Marc Andre Cunningham, the top aide to ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has apparently agreed to cooperate with government prosecutors in their city hall corruption case against the disgraced mayor, according to The Detroit News.

An order signed by U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen pushed back the hearing date for Cunningham’s sentencing to April 14, signaling that the one-time top city hall official was ready to turn against his friend and former frat-house brother. The date is one day after a status conference hearing on the criminal case against Kilpatrick.

Cunningham pleaded guilty to charges that he took $300,000 in commissions from an investment firm that he helped secure $30 million of city pension funds to manage. Cunningham admitted that he paid a portion of the commission to Kilpatrick’s father Bernard, as a bribe to make the deal happen.

After the transaction, Cunningham was made Kilpatrick’s executive assistant. Later he was appointed head of the Detroit Film Office.

Cunningham pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to commit bribery, and faces up to 37 months in prison.

The Detroit News

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Former Mich. State Rep. Mary Waters backtracks on corruption guilty plea

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After pleading guilty last year in a corruption case involving her then-boyfriend, convicted Detroit political consultant Sam Riddle, former politician state Rep. Mary Waters has changed her mind and wants the plea reversed.

Waters, 55, pleaded guilty for her role in a bribery case in which Riddle allegedly took $45,000 in cash, and a $5,500 Breitling watch, for his help in getting an approval from the city of Southfield, Michigan, for the relocation of a jewelry store and pawnshop. As part of the arrangement, Waters received a $6,000 Rolex watch.

A Southfield city councilman, William Lattimore, was paid a $12,500 bribe by the couple to push the approval through Southfield city council.

Waters and Riddle were indicted in July 2009 by a grand jury investigating widespread corruption in Kwame Kilpatrick’s city hall administration.

Riddle pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and extortion, and is serving a 37-month sentence in federal prison.

As part of a plea deal, Waters claimed the Rolex was a gift from Riddle, and plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of filing a false tax return. She was sentenced to one year’s probation.

Waters filed a brief on Friday claiming her Constitutional rights were violated, and wants the plea arrangement overturned.

In the court papers, Waters court-appointed lawyer, Melvin Houston, said that her Six Amendment rights to effective legal representation were violated, that U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battani failed to establish a factual basis for her guilty plea and it was unfair to make her guilty plea part of an overall plea deal involving Riddle.

The legal brief asks that the conviction be set aside, and for a new plea and sentencing hearing.

Information from: The Detroit News

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Man to stand trial for accessing wife’s email account

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Leon Walker, 33, of Rochester Hills, Mich. is scheduled to go to trial on April 11 for hacking into his ex-wife’s email account, and then providing damaging information to an ex-husband. If convicted, he faces five years behind bars.

Walker was the third husband of Clara Walker, the woman whose email account was hacked. He was suspicious that she was having an affair with her second husband, who had been arrested for beating her in front of a child that she had with the first husband.

Walker used the wife’s password to get access to the wife’s Google account on a computer they shared, and found emails confirming that she was having an affair with the second husband.

Walker then provided the emails to the first husband who used them in a court filing, seeking custody of the child. Walker said he was trying to protect the child, who he was raising with the wife, from neglect.

After Clara Walker was made aware of the court filing and emails, she filed a complaint with the Oakland County Sheriff’s office, and the local district attorney issued an arrest warrant.

The charge was made under a state hacking law, which is mostly used when hackers steal information in cases of identity theft.

“It’s going to be interesting because there are no clear legal answers here,” said Frederick Lane, a Vermont attorney and nationally recognized expert who has published five books on electronic privacy. The fact that the two still were living together, and that Leon Walker had routine access to the computer, may help him, Lane said.

A number of defense attorneys were surprised by the filing of the criminal charges. “What’s the difference between that and parents who get on their kids’ Facebook accounts?” attorney Deborah McKelvy said. “You’re going to have to start prosecuting a whole bunch of parents.”

Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper says the felony computer misuse charge is justified. “The guy is a hacker,” Cooper said in a voice mail response to the Detroit Free Press. “It was password protected, he had wonderful skills, and was highly trained. Then he downloaded them and used them in a very contentious way.”

information from: Detroit Free Press

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Detroit School Board member “bugged” confidential legal settlement meeting

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As though Detroit’s public school system doesn’t have enough issues to deal with, apparently at least one of its school board members is trying to secretly sabotage its efforts to reach a legal settlement with embattled Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb.

In happier times: Detroit School Board President Anthony Adams and Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb.

The espionage was detailed in a memo sent by school board president Anthony Adams to all the board members, saying that during a “closed door” meeting to confidentially discuss a settlement, at least one board member had their cell phone turned on to send the 2-hour discussion to “outside community participants.”

The memo said in part “Such conduct is not to be tolerated. We need to do things in private.  To intrude on our process that way shows a tremendous level of disrespect.” The memo did not contain the name of the offending board member.

One board member, Dr. Carla Scott said “If it’s true, they should be sanctioned. I have no idea why someone would do something so inappropriate, so juvenile and unprofessional. I hope it’s not true,” she said.

The settlement with Bobb follows a ruling in December by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Baxter, in which she said that Bobb overstepped his authority by making academic decisions that should have been made by the school board. The decision came as the result of a year-long civil lawsuit brought by the school board against Bobb.

Bobb was appointed by Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm in March 2009 to deal with the district’s ongoing financial crisis. This year, the school system is expected to have a budget deficit of over $325 million.

Bobb was given a one-year contract that was extended through March 2011.

The Detroit News

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Feds sue Kilpatrick associate for $16.4 million

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Federal prosecutors filed forfeiture papers over the weekend, seeking more than $16.4 million from Bobby Ferguson, the contractor friend of ex-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Ferguson was indicted in September on charges of bid-rigging a $12 million contract connected to a Detroit affordable housing development.

Officials are looking to recover more than $3.9 million in cash, checks and certificates of deposit seized or frozen by authorities, as well as two handguns and ammunition.

In addition, if Ferguson and his co-defendants are convicted, the government wants damages of $12.5 million, the amount they received on the bid-rigged housing contract.

Ferguson’s co-defendants are all executives at companies owned by Ferguson, and include Shakib Deria, vice president of A&F Environmental/Johnson Construction Services; Michael Woodhouse, president of Xcel Construction and Calvin Hall, vice president of Xcel Construction.

Separately, in December, Ferguson was indicted on charges of extortion, bribery and fraud over construction contracts involving city sewer and water main work, in which millions of dollars were diverted to Ferguson, Kilpatrick’s father and other city hall insiders.

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Ex-Detroit mayor and cronies arraigned on 38 counts of corruption

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Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard, and three other men were arraigned on Monday in U.S. District Court, on federal racketeering and corruption charges.

Disgraced ex-Detroit mayor Kwame Kirkpatrick has his most difficult legal struggle ahead of him, perhaps in 2012.

Kilpatrick is currently serving time in federal prison in Milan, Mich. on a parole violation charge. Instead of the typical prison uniform, Kilpatrick appeared in a coat and tie, although he appeared to have lost some weight and sported a bushy beard.

Kilpatrick appeared to be in good spirits, joking around with his fellow co-defendants and blowing air kisses to his sister in the courtroom audience. All five men entered non-guilty pleas to U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark A. Randon. All but Kilpatrick were released on $10,000 bail.

Observers say the current charges are the most serious brought to date against Kilpatrick, 40, who was considered a rising star in Michigan politics until forced to resign in 2008, after state convictions of perjury and obstruction of justice.

In mid-December, a 17-member federal grand jury indicted Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, former mayoral aide Derrick A Miller, Kilpatrick close friend and contractor Bobby Ferguson and former Detroit water chief Victor Mercado.

The 89-page indictment described a culture in which Kilpatrick orchestrated million dollar schemes to steer city business to contractors who would pay kickbacks to Kilpatrick and his group. The U.S. Attorney’s Detroit office filed the 38-count indictment, charging the group with racketeering conspiracy and accusing them with extortion, bribery and fraud. Tens of millions of dollars of municipal contracts were steered to Ferguson using coercion exerted by Kilpatrick’s office.

The government brought charges under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act which makes it easier to sue interconnected entities in complex cases. A RICO case, often used in instances of organized crime, also provides harsher sentencing provisions and recovery of triple damages.

Ferguson is a close friend of Kwame Kilpatrick and a hauling and construction contractor. He was previously indicted in September on separate charges of bid-rigging a $12 million contract connected to a HUD affordable housing project in the Detroit area.

Bernard Kilpatrick was involved in the corruption schemes through a consulting firm, Maestro Associates LLC, which he started around the time his son was elected mayor. He was part of the team including Kwame Kilpatrick, Derrick Miller and Victor Mercado that regularly extorted monies from legitimate contractors involved in city sewer and water main work, often steering a portion of the contract to pal Bobby Ferguson. In some cases, Ferguson received big fees for doing no work at all.

The government alleges that Ferguson kicked back over $420,000 to Kilpatrick and his father Bernard, and said Bernard Kilpatrick deposited more than $600,000 in cash into his personal bank accounts while his son served as the mayor of Detroit from 2002 through 2008.

Most of the contracts were valued in the tens of millions of dollars, although the men tried to extort a company into giving Ferguson a large piece of a $140 million contract for a new pumping station. The Kilpatrick group, called Kilpatrick Enterprises by prosecutors,  worked together in instances of rig-bidding, so that Ferguson would be guaranteed contract wins by manipulating the bidding process.

Kilpatrick resigned from office in 2008 after being charged with 10 felonies, including perjury, misconduct in office and obstruction of justice. He pleaded guilty to lesser charges and served 99 days in jail, but was sent back for violating the terms of his parole.  He is currently serving time in federal prison in Milan, Michigan.

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Former Chicago school board presidents spent $800,000 of taxpayer monies on personal expenses

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The annual report issued by the Chicago Public Schools inspector general said that two former board presidents, Rufus Williams and Michael Scott, misspent hundreds of thousands of dollars, despite its ongoing budget crisis.

Much of the improper spending was concealed, in large part, by manipulating the purchase process and keeping individual payments below the $25,001 threshold, required for approval by board’s chief purchasing officer.

The report issued on Wednesday detailed questionable expenditures totaling more than $800,000 by the pair. Some of the items uncovered in the inspector general’s report were: $12,624 for holiday parties held at Williams’ home; $92,900 donated to charities or organizations connected to Scott or a family member; $5,333 to purchase artwork for their offices; $6,080 for a party at Soldier Field for the Chicago Football Classic, and $1,734 for a limo tab and $1,978 for liquor purchased during a trip to Washington D.C.

Rufus Williams, left, and Michael Scott, spent Chicago Public School monies lavishly, using gimmicks to conceal the outlays.

Another $3,000 was paid to a security company to conduct electronic sweeps at Scott’s office around the time federal officials were investigating him for handing out slots at elite public schools to star athletes, instead of deserving academic students.

In a prepared statement, mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel said “there’s no excuse for frittering away $800,000 in taxpayer money, particularly in times like these. . . We need to ensure that there are accountability measures that prevent this from ever reoccurring. Chicago Public Schools have a responsibility to use taxpayer funds as they are intended: for our children and classrooms.”

Williams, an executive at a financial management company in Chicago, did not comment on the report. Scott committed suicide in November 2009.

Separately, the inspector general disclosed the CPS had leased 36 driver education vehicles without going through the bidding process, which is required by state law.

In January 2010, the Chicago Tribune reported that then-school board president Ron Huberman was having the district pay $1,800 per month on the lease of two personal vehicles.

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