Kilpatrick pleads innocence as former aide agrees to testify

theGRIO REPORT - Derrick Miller, the chief administrative officer to disgraced former mayor, received $568,000 in connection with a $117 million deal financed by the city's pension fund...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

DETROIT – Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick maintains his innocence while faced with the guilty plea of a lifelong friend that could land him in federal prison.

Derrick Miller, the chief administrative officer to disgraced former mayor, received $568,000 in connection with a $117 million deal financed by the city’s pension fund.

Miller, who was indicted in December 2010 along with Kilpatrick; the mayor’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick; city contractor Bobby Ferguson; and former Detroit Water and Sewage Department Director Victor Mercado, admitted to federal authorities that he took bribes from businessmen, hand delivered cash from a contractor to Kilpatrick, and helped divert city contracts worth millions to Ferguson.

The group is accused racketeering in a series of deals meant to extort millions of dollars through Detroit Water Department contracts funded with taxpayer dollars.

Miller agreed last week in federal court to testify against Kilpatrick and the others. He is facing up to 10 years in prison and a $200,000 fine though, if he sufficiently cooperates, he could do less prison time.

During Kilpatrick’s “Real Talk” tour in Detroit last week, the former mayor insisted that Miller, a man he has known since high school, was being coerced by authorities and the media to make up stories about him and insists that he is innocent.

“I just met so many people in prison who were sitting there 30 and 40 years because someone made up a story,” Kilpatrick said last Tuesday night. “The last time I was guilty [of obstruction of justice in 2008], I lied. I accepted that and I took my punishment.

“But Derrick, he doesn’t want to take responsibility. So I have to fight it.”

Miller is the latest in a laundry list of former Detroit public officials caught in a City Hall corruption probe that has resulted in at least 18 felony convictions.

“This plea is part of a multi-year, multi-agency investigation into the corruption plaguing the city of Detroit,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Andrew Arena said last week. “Public officials involved in acts of corruption and blatant greed will be held accountable for their actions.”

In his recently released book, Surrendered: The Rise, Fall & Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick, Kilpatrick talked about the role Miller, whose nickname is “Zeke”, played in his life. Toward the end of his first term, Kilpatrick says that changed.

“Other than my wife and (former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty), I trusted no one more than Zeke,” Kilpatrick wrote. “Unfortunately, that trust, and our friendship, waned after I became mayor.”

The former mayor insists that he knew nothing of the graft and corruption amongst the numerous members of his staff. During the “Real Talk” tour stop, Kilpatrick noted the corruption in the administrations former mayors Coleman Young and Dennis Archer, and insisted that his was different.

“It’s impossible for the leader of a city to know what everyone is doing,” Kilpatrick said. “I’m not in their lives like that. The extent of my relationship [with administration members] is ‘did the grass get cut?’ or ‘did we close the deal on the Book Cadillac hotel?’ and did the building get built.

“But this whole ‘Kilpatrick enterprise’ that [the media and feds] made up is nonsense. The team that actually sat in the cabinet meetings and moved the ship wasn’t apart of that. I don’t care if all the news stations say I did it, I’m going to stand with my feet firmly on the ground and say I didn’t do it.”

The federal RICO trial of Kilpatrick and his associates is slated to begin in early 2012 in at the U.S. District Court in Detroit. Miller is currently free on bond while awaiting sentencing. No sentencing date has been set.