Pleading guilty to a crime you don't think you committed - New York News

What would it take for you to plead guilty of a crime you don't think you committed?

Posted: Updated:
Victor Mercado Victor Mercado

By M.L. Elrick
FOX 2 Investigative Reporter


DETROIT (WJBK) -- It's almost like Victor Mercado was never here.

By the time the Kilpatrick Inc. trial resumed on Tuesday, he had left town on a ticket he likely booked even before setting down the pen he used to sign his unexpected plea deal last week.

He didn't even leave an empty chair behind.

But Mercado hangs over the trial as a reminder of what pressure can do to a man facing 20 years in prison -- even a man who believed so strongly in his innocence that he passed up a chance to get on with his life in return for a virtual slap on the wrist.

Which is, incidentally, precisely how everyone expected Mercado's part in this mess to be resolved.

After all, as Mercado's attorneys said, he wasn't part of the "Circle of Trust" comprised of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and the FOKKers (Friends of Kwame Kilpatrick).

Prosecutors even admitted that he didn't take a dime for whatever role he may have played in helping FOKK head Bobby Ferguson get contracts from the city water department Mercado once ran.

Nevertheless, even after he lost his job running the water system in San Antonio and hired on at a hardware store for $10 an hour, Mercado steadfastly refused to cave.

Whether too proud, too stubborn, or, as his lawyers protested, just plain innocent, Mercado, 61, stared down charges that could have sent him away for the rest of his life.

He stood his ground even after his lawyers were unable to sever him from the "Kilpatrick Enterprise" proceedings so he could stand before a jury on his own.

He kept his peace even after he took his place next to three men for whom he felt no affection and owed no loyalty.

After a month of testimony, it seemed to be the right play.

Jurors heard witnesses who worked with Mercado describe him as a tough but fair boss who tried to get the unwieldy billion-dollar agency under control.

They saw documents from the late John Feikens, the federal judge overseeing the water department, praising Mercado.

And they read text messages which Kilpatrick and Ferguson had exchanged showing they didn't particularly like Mercado and that certainly left the impression that Mercado -- who Hizzoner once described as a "slick ass" -- was at best a reluctant part of whatever schemes they ginned up.

Still, Mercado couldn't sleep at night.

He seemed at times like a dead man walking.

One morning during a break in testimony, I told him as we waited for an elevator: "So far, you're guilty of being a good boss." His gratitude for that seemingly innocuous comment was so great that I was almost taken aback.

So his lawyers continued holding occasional discussions with the feds. While Mercado hadn't been willing to accept earlier offers, he finally agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion in return for a deal that did not require him to cooperate and that called for a maximum sentence of up to 18 months in prison.

After all the fighting, after all the damage to his reputation, after the effective destruction of a career he worked long and hard to build and, even though the trial seemed to be going his way, Mercado just plain decided he couldn't risk a lengthy prison sentence.

He's hoping to get probation, but there's still a good chance he'll do some time.

Yet when Mercado went before Judge Nancy Edmunds to tell her how he had broken the law, he did not hitch, he did not stutter, he did not weep or waver.

The uncertainty, the pressure, the waiting was finally over.

And a man who believes he is innocent found he could only begin to feel free again by agreeing to go to prison.

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 (@elrick) or Facebook. And catch him every Friday morning around 7:15 a.m. on Drew & Mike on WRIF, 101.1 FM. He is co-author of "The Kwame Sutra: Musings on Lust, Life and Leadership from Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick," available at www.kwamesutra.com. A portion of sales benefit the Eagle Sports Club and Soar Tutoring. Learn more at www.eaglesports.com.

  • Local NewsLocal NewsMore>>

  • Search for masked robbers in Caesars heist

    Search for masked robbers in Caesars heist

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 3:28 PM EDT2014-07-22 19:28:51 GMT
    The hunt is on in southern New Jersey for two suspects who made off with more than $180K from Caesars Atlantic City casino. The brazen robbers reportedly stole the cash from two plastic boxes on the casino floor. The robbery occurred on Monday at about 6 a.m. The masked robbers took off in a vehicle. The State Police Casino Gaming Bureau is handling the investigation.
    The hunt is on in southern New Jersey for two suspects who made off with more than $180K from Caesars Atlantic City casino. The brazen robbers reportedly stole the cash from two plastic boxes on the casino floor. The robbery occurred on Monday at about 6 a.m. The masked robbers took off in a vehicle. The State Police Casino Gaming Bureau is handling the investigation.
  • Long Island doctor gets 10 years in painkillers probe

    Long Island doctor gets 10 years in painkillers probe

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 3:23 PM EDT2014-07-22 19:23:37 GMT
    A New York physician has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for illegally distributing painkillers. Dr. Leonard Stambler of Baldwin Harbor was convicted in October 2013 of conspiracy and distribution of oxycodone. Authorities have been cracking down on the powerful painkiller following a fatal shooting during a Long Island pharmacy robbery.
    A New York physician has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for illegally distributing painkillers. Dr. Leonard Stambler of Baldwin Harbor was convicted in October 2013 of conspiracy and distribution of oxycodone. Authorities have been cracking down on the powerful painkiller following a fatal shooting during a Long Island pharmacy robbery.
  • Real estate heir charged for urinating on candy

    Real estate heir charged for urinating on candy

    Tuesday, July 22 2014 3:22 PM EDT2014-07-22 19:22:04 GMT
    A New York City real estate heir who admitted killing his neighbor a decade ago in Texas is facing a new charge in Houston that accuses him of urinating on candy at a drug store.Authorities say 71-year-old Robert Durst was arrested Sunday after arguing with store employees. They say he was charged with criminal mischief after urinating on at least $100 worth of candy.His attorney, Chip Lewis, said in a statement Tuesday that they will address the allegations in court.In 2001, D...
    A New York City real estate heir who admitted killing his neighbor a decade ago in Texas is facing a new charge in Houston that accuses him of urinating on candy at a drug store.Authorities say 71-year-old Robert Durst was arrested Sunday after arguing with store employees. They say he was charged with criminal mischief after urinating on at least $100 worth of candy.His attorney, Chip Lewis, said in a statement Tuesday that they will address the allegations in court.In 2001, D...
  • Latest Development in the Kilpatrick Corruption TrialMore>>

  • Bobby Ferguson sentenced to 21 years in prison

    Bobby Ferguson sentenced to 21 years in prison

    Friday, October 11 2013 3:20 PM EDT2013-10-11 19:20:27 GMT
    Bobby Ferguson, a former city contractor and longtime friend of ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, has been sentenced to 21 years in federal prison for his role in a public corruption case.
    Bobby Ferguson, a former city contractor and longtime friend of ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, has been sentenced to 21 years in federal prison for his role in a public corruption case.
  • Kwame Kilpatrick sentenced to 28 years in prison

    Kwame Kilpatrick sentenced to 28 years in prison

    Thursday, October 10 2013 9:33 PM EDT2013-10-11 01:33:28 GMT
    A federal judge sentenced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Thursday to 28 years in prison for his role in a public corruption scandal that cost the city millions and ended a career for the once promising politician.
    A federal judge sentenced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Thursday to 28 years in prison for his role in a public corruption scandal that cost the city millions and ended a career for the once promising politician.
  • No prison time for Kilpatrick's right-hand man

    No prison time for Kilpatrick's right-hand man

    Thursday, May 29 2014 11:32 PM EDT2014-05-30 03:32:53 GMT
    He was former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's best friend and was once his right-hand man in City Hall. But when the corruption scandal unfolded, Derrick Miller testified against his former friend, helping to send the ex-mayor to prison.
    He was former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's best friend and was once his right-hand man in City Hall. But when the corruption scandal unfolded, Derrick Miller testified against his former friend, helping to send the ex-mayor to prison.
Powered by WorldNow
Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Ad Choices