Kwame Kilpatrick Trial | Life-long friends become witnesses - New York News

Kwame Kilpatrick watches as life-long friends become witnesses

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DETROIT (WJBK) -

Kwame Kilpatrick's friends are getting known by another name these days in U.S. District Court: Witness.

It's not a term they're comfortable with, as Kilpatrick college buddy Mahlon Clift made clear when he testified Monday that he was the mule who conveyed $90,000 from Bobby Ferguson to Kilpatrick.

Clift met Kilpatrick when they were at Florida A&M University in the late 80s and early 90s. He introduced Kilpatrick to his future wife, Carlita, and asked Kilpatrick to be a groomsman in his own wedding.

Now he's a barber and sometime jeweler in Chicago, where his clients include athletes, controversial crooner R. Kelly and possibly, according to defense attorneys and Clift himself, drug dealers.

Clift said he loved Kilpatrick and considered him a life-long friend, which sounded odd coming from a prosecution witness. Defense attorneys suggested that Clift testified only because he was hoping to get a break on some other matters, though those were not laid out for the jury. Kilpatrick sat expressionless as Clift told jurors Ferguson gave him $90,000 at the Atheneum Hotel in Greektown in 2008 to give to "Black," one of Ferguson's nicknames for Kilpatrick. Clift stuffed the dough into a pair of gym shorts and a pair of jeans he pulled on over the shorts, prompting two of the funniest moments of the nascent trial. After Ferguson attorney Mike Rataj told Clift he must have looked like the Michelin man, Clift countered that this occurred before the skinny jean fad.

Defense attorneys poked some holes in Clift's credibility, pointing out inconsistencies in his testimony. But Clift may have served prosecutors well because while he secured an immunity agreement a couple years ago before meeting with the grand jury that ultimately indicted Kilpatrick, he is not implicated in any of the allegedly dirty deals that went down during Kilpatrick's tenure in city hall.

Despite Clift's apparent reluctance to testify, I don't hold out much hope for the prospect of their continued friendship. Clift's body language suggested he agrees.

Most witnesses walk down the center of the courtroom, between the defense and prosecution tables, on their way out. One prosecution witness, a former bank official who handled some of Kilpatrick's business, even blew him a kiss on her way out. Kilpatrick reciprocated. Yet Clift took the long way out, walking around the far side of the prosecution table, which put as much distance between himself and Kilpatrick as possible.

Other one-time Kilpatrick buds expected to testify over the next four months include lifelong friend Kandia Milton, a former deputy mayor; Marc Andre Cunningham, a mayoral appointee and frat brother; and high school pal and former teammate Derrick Miller, Kilpatrick's former chief administrative and chief information officer. All three pleaded guilty to public corruption charges and are cooperating with the feds in return for reduced sentences. Miller is expecting to give the most damning testimony -- he allegedly passed a $10,000 bribe along to Kilpatrick in a restaurant bathroom -- and may provide the trial's grand finale.

Two other Kilpatrick friends caught up in the federal web include lifelong friend DeDan Milton, who pleaded guilty to bribery charges and is cooling his heels in the federal pen, and Jeffrey Beasley, Kilpatrick's city treasurer and frat brother, who has been charged in the federal probe of the city's pension fund.

Kilpatrick's friends wondering whether there's something worse than being a witness need only turn to Ferguson.

These days, he's known by a far less desirable adjective: Co-defendant.

Follow M.L. Elrick's coverage of the Kilpatrick & Co. trial daily on Fox 2 and at www.myfoxdetroit.com. Contact him at ml.elrick@foxtv.com or via Twitter or Facebook.

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