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Member of "Kilpatrick Enterprise" pleads guilty to conspiracy

Detroit’s former water department head has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge.

Victor Mercado had been a co-defendant in ex-Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s ongoing public corruption case.

Mercado is one of the four people who, along with the former mayor, his longtime friend Bobby Ferguson, and father Bernard Kilpatrick, made up the alleged “Kilpatrick Enterprise.”

The federal government says they ran Detroit city government, and particularly the water department, as a kind of racketeering scheme, rigging the system so that Ferguson got a cut of many water department contracts.

But now, Mercado has pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy. In exchange, he’s been promised a maximum eighteen-month prison sentence, though he clearly hopes to receive much less.

According to Mercado’s lawyer Martin Crandall, there’s no expectation that Mercado will testify against his former co-defendants.

“There is no provision in the agreement of testimony,” Crandall said.

But Mercado isn’t precluded from testifying, either. He won’t be sentenced until after the Kilpatrick trial wraps up.

James Thomas, Kwame Kilpatrick’s attorney, insists Mercado’s plea shouldn’t have a big impact on the ongoing public corruption case.

“It doesn’t mean anything in the long scheme of things,” said Thomas. “He will not be expected to be testifying at trial, and so he’s not subjected to the rigors of cross-examination…it doesn’t really have any effect on our case.”

In a written statement outlining the plea agreement, Detroit US Attorney Barbara McQuade, says Mercado committed the crime “under duress,” but “under circumstances not amounting to a complete defense.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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