The story of Jim 'Raising Reasonable Doubt' Thomas - Fox 2 News Headlines

Kilpatrick's attorney finds plausible excuses for civic fund expenses

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Jim Thomas Jim Thomas

By M.L. Elrick
FOX 2 News Investigative Reporter

DETROIT (WJBK) -- As a good Catholic boy, Jim Thomas probably might take umbrage if folks started calling him "Doubting Thomas."

For starters, he has complete faith in his client, Kwame Kilpatrick, once parodied by Detroit's Second City troupe as "Black Jesus."

He is dead certain that the feds have gone too far by bringing public corruption and racketeering charges against the former mayor, his father, his best friend and his former water department chief.

And there is no doubt in his mind that Kilpatrick had a legitimate purpose for almost all expenditures from his non-profit Kilpatrick Civic Fund, from payments to yoga instructors, to summer camps for his kids, to golf shops for clubs and a carry bag with "The Mayor" embroidered on it.

It is in this last regard that Thomas has done some remarkable lawyering over the past month or so, finding plausible excuses for almost every civic fund expense put before jurors.

"Raising Reasonable Doubt Thomas" would be a more apt nickname.

But U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Edmunds checked him hard on Tuesday after he tried getting a witness to concede that there might not be a problem with Kilpatrick's use of civic fund money for a 2002 tryst with his then-lover and chief of staff Christine Beatty at a posh spa in Vail, Colo. As he has for weeks, Thomas raised doubt by raising the possibility that Kilpatrick attended a conference of mayors meeting held in Denver during that stay (even though Kilpatrick's private appointment calendar made no mention of such and blocked out the time as "Gone Fishing!!!")  "There is no evidence in the record that that occurred," Edmunds said of Thomas' assertion that Kilpatrick met with other mayors, stunning some in the courtroom who watched her sit silently for weeks as Thomas asserted otherwise.

"There is no record that it did not," Thomas shot back.

"There is no evidence in the record to support that," Edmunds said again.

This was followed by a sidebar meeting with the lawyers. That is a huddle in the courtroom that is on the record, but out of earshot of everyone but the judge, the lawyers and her court reporter. Afterward, the witness was dismissed with no further mention of possible meetings with mayors in Denver.

Perhaps emboldened, the government got in the act on Wednesday.

They put IRS special agent Rowena Schuch on the witness stand to share the findings of her quickie investigation: Not only does the mayoral group Thomas cited not exist, NO mayoral group help meetings in Denver (or Colorado, for that matter) during the period when Kilpatrick and Beatty were luxuriating at the Sonnenalp resort on the civic fund and taxpayers' dime.

Nonplussed, Thomas suggested that Kilpatrick may have met informally with an official from a mayor's association while in Denver.

That is possible, if not reasonable.

It's possible because, while Thomas didn't name names, then-Denver Mayor Wellington Webb was an influential member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Kilpatrick named him early on as a mentor, though there's no evidence he ever took any of his elder's sage advice.

It's not reasonable because, as I pointed out last week in this space, my pal and ol' Free Press partner Jim Schaefer and I reported in 2008 that the car the lovers rented with taxpayer money logged only 400 miles. Unless they bummed a ride from someone else, 400 miles is not enough to account for the 240-mile round trip from the Denver airport to Vail and even one 190-mile round trip from Vail to Denver.  

And I dare say Webb didn't get on his bike and ride out to Vail to check in on the whippersnapper mayor.

Thomas also suffered a setback in his bid to convince jurors it would be appropriate for the civic fund to buy golf clubs for Kilpatrick.

While questioning a witness who is an investment banker and golfer, Thomas got the witness to acknowledge that business can get done on the golf course.

But assistant prosecutor Eric Doeh countered that with one follow-up question, asking the witness if his firm paid for his golf clubs.

The answer was monosyllabic, but it spoke volumes:

"No."

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.

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