Detroit
12:21 pm
Mon November 5, 2012

Mercado pleads guilty in Kilpatrick corruption trial

12:21 p.m.

More on Mercado's guilty plea from the Associated Press:

The former head of Detroit's water department has pleaded guilty, six weeks into a corruption trial that also involves ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Victor Mercado's surprise guilty plea to conspiracy occurred Monday. The trial is in recess until next week because of a lawyer's illness.

Mercado was accused of conspiring to rig contracts that benefited Kilpatrick and the former mayor's pal, Bobby Ferguson, whose construction company got millions of dollars of work from the water department.

Prosecutor Mark Chutkow says Mercado never took a bribe or kickback but caved to pressure from Kilpatrick.

The trial, which started Sept. 21, has been dominated by testimony about payoffs and fraud involving Kilpatrick and Ferguson.

Kilpatrick's father, Bernard, is also a defendant. Kilpatrick resigned as Detroit mayor in 2008.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek is covering this story and will have more for us later.

9:08 a.m.

Both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News are reporting this morning that the former head of the Detroit water department, Victor Mercado, is expected to plead guilty to a felony conspiracy charge.

Mercado is one of three defendants on trial with former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

Mercado would become the second person tied to the Kilpatrick case to plead guilty to corruption charges. Derick Miller, Kilpatrick's former chief administrative officer plead guilty last year.

Prosecutors are alleging that Kilpatrick was the head of a criminal enterprise that stole millions from taxpayers and instituted a culture of corruption in city government.

The Detroit News reports Mercado maintains he was not a part of Kilpatrick's inner circle, but was a victim instead.

Mercado was facing up to 20 years in prison if convicted of charges including racketeering conspiracy, extortion and obstruction of justice.

Mercado, who headed the Water and Sewerage Department from 2002 to 2008, is accused of steering contracts to the mayor's friend and co-defendant, Bobby Ferguson, lying during a federal investigation into one city contract, pocketing a $240,000 salary and hiring a private company to sweep his offices for listening devices, prosecutors allege.

The charges faced by Mercado, Kilpatrick, Kilpatrick's father (Bernard Kilpatrick), and Kilpatrick's friend (Bobby Ferguson) include racketeering, extortion, bribery, fraud, and tax evasion.

The News reports the charges "carry penalties ranging from three years in prison to 20 years."