In his opening statement Friday, Assistant District Attorney Mark Chutkow quoted a text message he suggested summed up the defendants' philosophy: "Let's get us some money."
Chutkow described one payment of $90,000 he said had been hidden in a vacuum cleaner and showed the jury photographs of stacks of bills.
Kilpatrick, his father Bernard, Bobby Ferguson, a city contractor and longtime Kilpatrick friend, and Victor Mercado, the former head of the Detroit water department, are charged in an alleged bribery and corruption scheme.
Ferguson allegedly kicked back some of the $120 million he made from city contracts to Kilpatrick and his father.
"They made themselves rich by taking public money for themselves," Chutkow said.
Gerald Evelyn, Ferguson's lawyer, suggested in his opening statement the government was using the photographs and text messages for their prejudicial effect.
"This case is built on a foundation of nothing -- of Jell-O," Evelyn said.
Kilpatrick's lawyer, James Thomas, asked jurors to put aside his client's past legal troubles, which include pleading guilty to perjury and serving a state prison sentence for violating probation. He said much of the government's case is built on unreliable information from cooperating witnesses.