Developer: Kenerly never asked for bribe - Fox 2 News Headlines

Developer: Kenerly never asked for bribe

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Prosecutors considered him their key witness, a longtime Gwinnett developer given immunity to spill what he knew about corruption inside county government.

David Jenkins testified before a Gwinnett grand jury in 2010. He also met multiple times with prosecutors. Those interviews were videotaped. Four years later, prosecutors agreed to a no contest plea bargain with former commissioner Kevin Kenerly on one count of bribery. He will serve 10 years on probation and pay a $10,000 fine. He will serve no prison time.

Now that the case is finished, the public can get its first glimpse of what Jenkins had to say about his former business partner and friend. And it's clear, even though he was granted immunity, Jenkins would have made a very reluctant witness for the prosecution.

The Fox 5 I-Team reviewed three hours of videotaped interviews investigators conducted with Jenkins. He and Kenerly were business partners; Kenerly would use his connections as a real estate broker and longtime Gwinnett resident to bring land deals to Jenkins. In return, Jenkins would get the financing, buy the land and develop the property. He said he relied on Kenerly to lobby fellow commissioners for any rezoning that might be necessary, even though Kenerly would usually abstain from voting.

The gambling case ultimately centered around a 90-acre tract of land along Rabbit Hill Road in Dacula. Jenkins bought the land for around $8 million but Kenerly could not secure the proper rezoning for the number of homes Jenkins wanted to build. So Jenkins sued the county. Months went by, costing Jenkins money because he had to pay the loan for land that wasn't being developed. Eventually, Jenkins says Kenerly came to him suggesting that he make the county an offer to sell the land to build a park.

"Did Kevin settle a lawsuit and help his buddy out at the same time? Yeah. But is there anything wrong with that? I don't know. I'm just asking," Jenkins said to DA Danny Porter during his interview with investigators.

Ultimately, Kenerly made a motion to buy the Rabbit Hill land for close to what Jenkins asked for: $16 million. That was also the appraised price the county secretly came up with.

Porter: Did Kevin ever disclose the appraisal?

Jenkins: Not that I could recall.

Jenkins: I felt like I got lucky.

Porter: You did.

Jenkins: Without a doubt.

Porter: There's absolutely no question you got really lucky.

Jenkins dropped his lawsuit. But at roughly the same time, Jenkins says Kenerly came to him asking for a favor. The two had a partnership on another land development deal called Silver Oak. Kenerly said he'd give up his share of future profits if Jenkins would pay him 50-thousand dollars a month, totaling one million dollars.

Porter: So you had the same conversation about buying the land at the same time you had a conversation about paying $50,000 a month?

Jenkins: It wasn't too far apart. Looks awful doesn't it? I know man, it looks terrible. But I swear on a stack of bibles a mile high that Kevin Kenerly and I never had a conversation pay me out of Silver Oak for Rabbit Hill. It did not happen. I swear to God. Strike me dead it didn't happen.

Silver Oak would ultimately fail in the Great Recession, costing Jenkins millions. But he still made all those payments to Kenerly on a handshake.

Jenkins also admitted giving Kenerly money on other occasions, when the commissioner would join developers on gambling trips to Las Vegas.

He said Kenerly was a horrible gambler.

"One time I gave him 20,000. He was getting killed. Absolutely murdered." Jenkins told investigators. "He asked me for some money and I was winning. Was up. I gave him $20,000."

In all, Jenkins told the DA he gave Kenerly $30,000 in gambling money.

Porter: Did you ever ask for it back?

Jenkins: No.

Porter: Why not?

Jenkins: It's just a business partner and a friend. Didn't ask for it.

Word of those trips would leak out, Kenerly's political opponents hiring a private investigator to document Kenerly's coziness with developers.

The Fox 5 I-Team broke the story in 2006, apparently slowing down Jenkins' rezoning request for another development.

"There was a whole lot of commotion going on at the time with that Las Vegas Fox 5 thing," remembered Jenkins. And that just got everything skewed. That would have been a walk-through zoning for sure."

Four years after Jenkins' testimony to the Grand Jury, DA Porter would agree to a no-contest plea bargain with Kenerly. 10 years probation. 10,000 dollar fine. No prison. Kenerly told reporters afterward he never bribed anyone.

Porter would cite Kenerly's wife's terminal health condition as the main reason he made the deal.

But Porter also indicated it would be hard to prove their bribery case when the star witness still insists he's the defendant's friend.

"I would have fully expected David Jenkins to do everything he could to save Kenerly. I mean, they're still friends," Porter said.

Listen to what Jenkins says on these tapes, and it's clear his biggest worry is what will happen to his business partner and gambling buddy.

"He never asked for a payment for Rabbit Hill. Maybe it's a miracle. I don't know. Whatever," insisted Jenkins. "I've told the truth as I remember it. And if that's what gets Kevin in trouble for, I'm going to tell you it's the wrong thing because we just didn't. As quirky as it looks, we did not have that conversation."

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