Ex-cop says he took kickback in Detroit camp sale


Associated Press Writer
DETROIT – A former police officer on Friday pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and implicated two former officials in ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s administration in a kickback scheme tied to the $3.5 million sale of a city camp.

Jerry Rivers, 39, of Taylor, said during a hearing in U.S. District Court that he and brothers DeDan and Kandia Milton shared $50,000 after Camp Brighton in Livingston County was sold to the Chaldean Catholic Church in 2007. No one else, including the Miltons, has been charged in the case.

Rivers, who once was on Kilpatrick’s security unit, said he was approached by a representative of the church in 2006 seeking help on the deal. He said he introduced the representative to the Miltons, and the money later came from a priest through a middleman.

“I got $20,000 and split the balance between the Miltons,” Rivers told the court.

In court documents, prosecutors would only say he was working with city officials C and D.

Kandia Milton was a top aide when Kilpatrick was mayor and recommended the camp sale in a memo to the Detroit City Council. DeDan Milton also worked for Kilpatrick.

Rivers was a police officer from 1999 until resigning in the past week or two, and was on Kilpatrick’s security unit early in his tenure as mayor — not at the time of the kickback scheme, defense lawyer Sheldon Halpern said.

He said he knew of no others involved in the case other than those named by Rivers in court.

“This was an error in judgment,” Halpern said after the hearing. “He would have made the introduction without being offered one penny. … He foolishly took it.”

Messages seeking comment were left with the Miltons and the church.

Chaldean Bishop Ibrahim Ibrahim acknowledged a $50,000 payment to “someone well-known” but also told The Detroit News: “We had no intention to do anything wrong.”

Kilpatrick resigned in 2008 after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice and pleading no contest to assault. Last month, an FBI agent testified as part of a restitution hearing for Kilpatrick and indicated that federal investigators are interested in the dealings of the embattled ex-mayor.

A message seeking comment was left after regular business hours Friday with a lawyer for Kilpatrick.

A federal probe of corruption at city hall has been ongoing for more that two years.

“The Detroit employees acted in their own best interests which was personal gain,” Andrew Arena, the head of the FBI’s Detroit office, said in a statement. “Detroit has a right to expect honest services from both city employees and elected officials.”

Gina Balaya, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, said she couldn’t say whether anyone named by Rivers would be charged. Rivers has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

City Council voted 5-4 in June 2007 to sell the camp. Councilman Kwame Kenyatta, who voted against the deal, attended Rivers’ hearing and said that there might be reason to void the sale.

“The previous administration was rotten to the core,” Kenyatta said of the Kilpatrick administration.

The city acquired the Genoa Township property in the 1920s. Camp Brighton, once a wilderness haven for Detroit inner-city youth about 40 miles northwest of the city, was closed in 1995 and was in decrepit condition.

Councilwoman Sheila Cockrel, who supported the camp sale, said it was a good deal for the city, despite Rivers’ guilty plea.

“The city didn’t have the resources to run it. This is a facility we had mothballed,” she said. “There was an enormous amount of due diligence done on it.”

The conspiracy charge is punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years probation. Under the terms of Rivers’ plea agreement, the sentencing guidelines would be 2 years and 6 months to 3 years and one month in prison. He was released on bond and will be sentenced next year.

During the hearing, federal prosecutors made it clear the Rivers’ actions were as an individual and not in his official capacity as an officer. Detroit police spokesman John Roach declined to comment on Rivers’ plea.

Prosecutors said they could ask for a lower sentence based on the extent of Rivers’ cooperation.