DETROIT, Dec. 19 (UPI) -- Text messages have been a powerful tool for federal prosecutors in the corruption trial of former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, observers say.
"What's in the text messages is both contemporaneous and tells you what was going on," Peter Henning, a former U.S. prosecutor who now teaches at Wayne State, told The Detroit News. "Documents don't have a faulty memory and they don't make deals."
Kilpatrick, his father Bernard, Bobby Ferguson, a longtime Kilpatrick friend who had contracts with the city, and Victor Mercado, former head of the Detroit water department, face a long list of charges, including bid-rigging and kickbacks.
This week, defense lawyers got a good taste of how devastating the text messages can be. Their use in trials is unusual because most are deleted quickly, but in this case thousands were retrieved.
Johnson Akinwusi, a prosecution witness, told the jury he worked with Ferguson to steer what is known as the Heileman contract, a $7 million job to build a recreation center. The defense did a good job on cross-examination of making his testimony look doubtful, the News said.
On Tuesday, jurors got to see a text message to Ferguson from Vincent Anwunah: "Your team got Heilmann."
The message was sent June 18, 2003, the day before the Detroit Building Authority awarded the contract.
Then there was Ferguson's text the next day to Christine Beatty, Kilpatrick's chief of staff and chairwoman of the building authority: "Thank you, I love you, you are for (sure) my sister." Ferguson sent the text several hours before the authority voted on the contract.