Category: Breaking News Written by Minni Foreman
DETROIT—Ex-water boss Victor Mercado pleaded guilty Monday to a conspiracy charge in a federal trial involving former mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Prosecutors allege that Mercado, Kilpatrick, and former City contractor Bobby Ferguson conspired to rig water department contracts to benefit Ferguson’s company.
Federal prosecutors offered Mercado a plea deal that will substantially reduce his prison time to 18 months plus a $100,00 fine. Before the plea bargain, Mercado, in his sixties, could have faced up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines if convicted.
Mercado’s plea came as a surprise, after Mercado’s lawyers fought to defend the former water chief’s innocence for the first six weeks of the trial.
Mercado’s lawyers said talks of a plea deal had been ongoing even after the trial started, and that the most recent offer from the Government was the best yet.
"It was the right decision at the right time," Mercado’s lawyer Martin Crandall told reporters outside the courthouse Monday morning. "They did not make an offer like this before."
Mercado’s lawyers tried to get their client to be tried separately from Kilpatrick and the other two defendants, but failed.
During the first six weeks of trial proceedings, Mercado’s name only started surfacing over the past two weeks when water contracts came up in testimony.
During the trial, Mercado’s defense team worked to show that Mercado was an innocent man who made no illegal actions. Before the trial his defense worked to show that Mercado was just a victim of Kilpatrick’s pay-play scheme and pressured to get him tried separately.
At Monday’s brief hearing, U.S. attorney Mark Chutkow explained to Judge Nancy Edmunds that the Government decided to greatly reduce Mercado’s sentence because the former water boss never took any money for helping rig contracts.
Mercado appeared in court Monday and spoke for the first time since the trial began in September. When prompted, Mercado said “yes” or “no” in a hushed voice, accepting the terms of the plea deal.
Edmunds asked Mercado if he understood that he still could get more than 18 months in prison or pay more than $100,000 in fines even after the plea deal. Mercado said yes.
However, if Mercado is sentenced to more than 18 months, there maybe a chance he could retract his guilty plea.
Plea deals that take place after a trial begins are rare but not unheard of, experts say.
Mercado is not expected to testify against his former co-defendants, as it was not a required part of the plea bargain.
However, Mercado could still choose to testify if called.
While the guilty plea came as a surprise to many, some legal experts who have been following the case say that a plea deal was never out of the question.
“He [Mercado] wanted to get out of the case,” legal analyst Todd Flood told Fox 2 Detroit reporters Monday morning.
“I’m not amazed he’s out of it now.”
Now that Mercado has entered a guilty plea, the case must continue in a way that will not taint the jury’s decision on the remaining three defendants. Jurors will not be told that Mercado took a plea deal and are expected to get a thorough explanation as to why Mercado’s plea does not impact the remaining defendants.
Mercado is the second defendant in what has become known as the Kilpatrick corruption case to plead guilty.
Derrick Miller, an alleged co-conspirator in the case, pleaded guilty before the trial started.
U.S. prosecutors say Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick and contractor Bobby Ferguson turned Detroit city call into an illegal racket for personal gain. The three are slammed with a litany of charges including bribery, extortion, tax fraud and racketeering and more than 20 years in prison.
The trial was delayed last week when Ferguson’s top lawyer Gerald Evelyn fell ill while court was in session. The trial is expected to resume on Tuesday, Nov. 13 pending Evelyn’s full recovery.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 November 2012 09:00
Category: News Briefs Written by Halimah Abdullah, CNN
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Remember Clint Eastwood's empty chair? Romney's Etch A Sketch moment? Obama's disastrous first debate?
The 2012 presidential race has been filled with stomach-clenching gaffes, dumb tactical goofs, nail-biting close calls and, of course, Big Bird.
But, along the way, it has also given American voters insight into the personalities and priorities of the men who would be president.
Will the next president have a fire in his belly? Or will he get caught behind closed doors dissing nearly half of the electorate? Does it matter that he thinks "you didn't build that?" Or is it OK that he likes "to fire people?"
But today is Election Day. No more polls. No more debates. The decision is now in the hands of the voters.
Here's a look back at some of President Barack Obama's and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's biggest moments in this political thrill ride:
Romney likes 'to fire people' | January 9, 2012: Romney's comment that he "likes being able to fire people" brought immediate attacks from his rivals and even a mocking ringtone. The candidate later told the Wall Street Journal that it was one moment that makes him "try and be a little more careful in what I say."
War on women | January-March: A federal mandate requiring religious institutions to offer contraception insurance coverage to employees sparks a "war on women" fight between Democrats and Republicans. The gender wars, women are more than half of the electorate, bled into congressional hearings, the campaigns and talk radio.
Etch A Sketch | March 21, 2012: Senior Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom caused quite a row when he said on CNN's "Starting Point' that the fall campaign is "like Etch A Sketch. You can shake it up and we start all over again." The statement would haunt the Romney camp for the rest of the campaign as both his primary challengers and the Obama team pounced on the statement as proof of Romney's flip-flopping on issues.
Presumptive nominee | April 10, 2012: Romney became the presumptive nominee after his closest rival, former U.S.
Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, suspended his campaign. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and U.S.
Rep. Ron Paul of Texas continued their long-shot bids, but both would drop out by the convention.
DREAM Act-lite | June 15, 2012: In an election-year policy change, the Obama administration announced it will stop deporting young illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children if they meet certain requirements.
Critics called the move a cynical ploy for Latino voters, while supporters heralded it as a step to institute a key portion of the DREAM Act.
Obamacare upheld | June 28, 2012: The U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Affordable Care Act, Obama's signature health care reform legislation and a law that cost both he and congressional Democrats tremendous political capital.
The Obama campaign saw the move as a tremendous legal victory; the Romney campaign vowed to work to dismantle parts of the law it doesn't like.
Romney's overseas trip | July, 2012: Despite his earlier pledge to watch what he says, Romney made verbal gaffes in questioning London's ability to host the Olympics to angering Palestinians by suggesting Israel's culture played a role in its economic success. The ensuing fallout lent a disastrous air to the remainder of his trip to Europe and the Middle East.
'You didn't build that' | July 13, 2012: When Obama told a crowd in Roanoke, Virginia "if you've got a business, you didn't build that; somebody else made that happen," the comment set off a chorus of cries from conservatives and Republican-leaning business owners. Obama later said he regretted the "syntax" of his comment. However, the phrase also became a rallying cry for GOP faithful, sparked campaign ads and became a new catchphrase -- "We built it" -- emblazoned on T-shirts, bumper stickers and signs.
Biggest lead | August 8, 2012: Just weeks before the Democratic and Republican national conventions and following Romney's verbal slip-ups abroad, Obama opened up his widest lead against the GOP presidential hopeful in the CNN
Poll of Polls, 49%-43%.
Picking Paul Ryan | August 11, 2012: Romney gave his campaign a boost and thrilled conservatives when he chose Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate. The 42-year-old congressional budget hawk is the first member of Generation X named to a presidential ticket.
Eastwood's empty chair | August 30, 2012: Actor and director Clint Eastwood's baffling monologue to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention caused no short amount of head scratching, late night talk show jokes and social buzz. His chair routine also upstaged Romney, who gave his convention speech later that night.
Bill Clinton's speech | September 5, 2012: Speaking of upstaging, former president Bill Clinton's energetic speech at the Democratic National Convention thrilled party faithful and, in many ways, upstaged Obama own more subdued address.
Benghazi attacks | September 11, 2012: When U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three others were killed in Benghazi, the subsequent fallout led to an administration apology and was fuel during the presidential debates. Republicans, including Romney, criticized the administration's initial blame for the attack (mobs angered by an anti-Muslim movie) and for failing to properly recognize the security threat in the region. The administration pointed to incomplete intelligence reports for its early remarks.
The 47% | September 17, 2012: In one ill-fated fundraiser, Romney managed to offend Palestinians, Latinos and nearly half of American voters, some of the same people he's counting on for support at the polls. A surreptitious recording made during a May 17 private fundraiser at the home of Sun Capital executive Marc Leder was leaked to the media and included, among other comments, Romney refering to the government-assistance dependent "47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what." Romney immediately dropped in the polls.
Obama's debate disaster | October 3, 2012: Obama blew it in the first presidential debate by failing to actively engage Romney on key points and looking down, as if he was bored or annoyed. His lethargic debate performance was criticized by politicos and late night television hosts alike. Meanwhile, Romney's apologies to Big Bird that he would trim funding to PBS led to Internet memes and even a Million Muppet March on the National Mall. Still, Obama immediately dropped in the polls.
Romney's comeback | October 9, 2012: Following Obama's disastrous first debate performance, Romney leapt ahead of Obama in the CNN Poll of Polls for the first time in the campaign, 48%-47%. The move signaled a tightening of the race and a clear indication that the candidates would remain neck and neck until the very end.
'Binders full of women' | October 16, 2012: In the second debate, Romney's comments about using "binders full of women" while Massachusetts governor to help diversify his cabinet led to Internet quips and criticism. Obama, on the other hand, gave a much livelier performance in this debate.
'Bayonets and horses' | October 22, 2012: In the third presidential debate, an energized Obama proved once again that he was full of sharp tongued-snark when he lashed Romney by explaining the military uses fewer "bayonets and horses." The line was an attempt to paint Romney as someone who is out of his depth on the nation's military strategies.
Voting early | October 25, 2012: Obama became the first presidential candidate to vote early, and his stop at a polling center in Chicago reflected his campaign's strategy to get suppoters to cast ballots ahead of November 6.
Superstorm Sandy | October 29, 2012: Sandy slammed into the East Coast killing more than 100 people, leaving millions without power and devastating the homes and property of thousands of others. In the storm's aftermath, both candidates halted campaigning and tread carefully in the days that followed so as to not politicize the devastation.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's praise of the Obama administration's handling of post-storm efforts further complicated the Romney camp's campaigning following the storm.
America votes | November 6, 2012: After billion of dollars, thousands of ads and years of campaigning, America finally gets its chance to decide.
The-CNN-Wire/Atlanta/+1-404-827-WIRE(9473) ™ & © 2012 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 November 2012 09:02
Category: Breaking News Written by CBS news/WWJ
DETROIT (WWJ) - It’s election day in Michigan.
Polls are open in our state from 7 a.m. til 8 p.m. (Do you know where to vote? Find your polling place and a sample ballot at this link).
Voters in Michigan and across the nation will choose between Democratic incumbent Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney to serve as President of the United States for the next four years.
EPIC/MRA pollster Bernie Porn has consistently shown President Obama with a six point lead in Michigan. ”I think that if Governor Romney wins Michigan, he would be winning the presidency without any question. But I think that everyone has viewed Michigan is a likely safe win for President Obama.”
Michigan voters are also being asked to consider a slate of six statewide ballot proposals. Porn sees higher ‘No’ votes than ‘Yes’ votes on all six proposals, with Proposals 2 and 4 being the most competitive.
“I think that probably the most successful (campaign) message was the idea of voting ‘no’ on all of the ones that would change the Constitution, and, … without looking at the value of any proposals that is something that, given the sheer number of proposals, was probably more effective than any other ad,” Porn said. (Don’t know yet where you stand on the ballot proposals? Get informed, here).
In the U.S. Senate race, Porn’s numbers give Democrat Debbie Stabenow up to 56 percent of the vote over GOP challenger Pete Hoekstra.
Congressional candidates will also be elected, with the spotlight on the special election for the 11th District seat vacated by Thaddeus McCotter. Republican Kerry Bentivolio faces Democrat David Curson, with the winner spending the next two months in Congress.
Voters across Metro Detroit will decide whether to approve tax issues to fund community services including schools, public safety and road projects.
All across Macomb County voters will decide if they want to pay a little more in taxes to improve technology and refurbish Macomb Community College buildings. Also, voters in Chesterfield, Armada, Macomb, Ray, and Richmond townships will be deciding on tax proposals with the money to be used for police and fire protection.
All throughout Wayne County, voters will decide if they want to pay higher taxes for Wayne County Community College District operations If approved it would raise $21 million next year. Also to be decided are several Wayne County proposals, including one that would allow amend the County’s charter to allow the Governor to remove the executive and another that would allow for more external audits of the county’s affairs
Detroit voters are faced with six city ballot proposals. The most talked about is Proposal M which would allow those over 21 years old to possess a small amount of marijuana. Supporters say having marijuana shouldn’t be a crime. Opponents say it could lead to more drug abuse. Proposal S is a millage renewal for Detroit Public Schools. It would raise $81 million in the first year for the district.
The possible recall of Troy Mayor Janice Daniels tops the list of local votes in Oakland County. Daniels has been targeted for recall by a group who is upset the Mayor called the homosexual lifestyle dangerous and voted against a new transit center.
Some other locals proposals to be decided include a tax increases for police and fire services in Royal Oak, Holly and Wixom. Milford Township is asking voters to approve a tax hike to pay for the construction and maintenance of a skate park.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 November 2012 08:13
Category: Breaking News Written by Similoluwa Ojurongbe, thegrio
According to interviews conducted by Gallup‘s polling site, no matter how people plan on voting, Americans still believe that President Obama has a better chance for re-election.
The polling was conducted from October 27-28, before Hurricane Sandy first hit the East Coast.
Current polls show a tight race between Obama and Romney, but Americans views haven’t changed from what they were in May and August. Americans still think that Obama will beat Romney by a margin of 54 percent to 34 percent.
American’s may believe that the incumbent president has a natural advantage. During the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush was seen as the more likely winner, and in 2008, 71 percent saw Barack Obama as the likely winner over John McCain (23 percent).
Gallup also calculated people’s partisan beliefs with who they thought would win. Not surprisingly, Democrats felt more confident in their party’s nominee. Overwhelmingly (86 percent), Democrats predicted Obama’s victory, while Republican’s thought that Mitt Romney would be the next president (71 percent)
In another interesting look into politics and the election, Gallup has looked at how accurate American’s have been in predicting who the next president will be and the results have been consistent in the last four elections. In 1996, 69 percent of Americans thought a Democrat would win. That year, Bill Clinton was the winner over Bob Dole.
During this long election process President Obama has largely held a slight lead, but it has been a close race all year.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 November 2012 00:40
Category: Breaking News Written by Huffingtonpost
Michigan Proposal 3: Should Voters Pass 25 By 2025 Renewable Energy Amendment?
Michigan voters won't just be electing a president at the polls on Tuesday.
Your ballot will also ask you to decide the fate of the emergency manager referendum and five constitutional amendments that will shape the future of the Mitten State.
Proposal 3 would add an amendment to the state constitution requiring that Michigan obtain 25 percent of its energy from renewable resources (like wind, solar and hydro) by the year 2025.
Proponents of the amendment say that, in addition to spearheading development of alternative energy, the legislation will have a positive affect on Michigan-owned businesses. They also say that more renewable energy is good for both the environment and the health of Michigan residents. The coalition leading the proposal, MI Energy MI Jobs, has spent a significant amount of money on media buys, at least $2.35 million, according to ProPublica.
But those who oppose the measure say Michigan already has an energy policy requiring the state to source 10 percent of its electricity needs from renewable resources by 2015. Gov. Rick Snyder, who opposes the legislation, says the existing goal is already difficult to meet. And critics say the amendment simply doesn't belong in the state constitution.
What do you think? See if our bloggers can change your mind.
Here's the official ballot text:
A PROPOSAL TO AMEND THE STATE CONSTITUTION TO ESTABLISH A STANDARD FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY
This proposal would:
Require electric utilities to provide at least 25% of their annual retail sales of electricity from renewable energy sources, which are wind, solar, biomass, and hydropower, by 2025.
Limit to not more than 1% per year electric utility rate increases charged to consumers only to achieve compliance with the renewable energy standard.
Allow annual extensions of the deadline to meet the 25% standard in order to prevent rate increases over the 1% limit.
Require the legislature to enact additional laws to encourage the use of Michigan made equipment and employment of Michigan residents.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 06 November 2012 08:00
Category: Breaking News Written by thegrio
The state of Florida is embroiled in controversy because of incredibly long early voting lines and wrangling about how long the polls can be open.
In the midst of this crisis, Republican governor Rick Scott made time to campaign alongside GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in Sanford, Fla., the town where unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin was killed earlier this year.
The town of Sanford and the state’s “Stand Your Ground” gun law have come under tremendous scrutiny after the case became a national phenomenon.
According to Mother Jones, the “law was sponsored by the same Republican legislator who helped shepherd Scott’s bill to shorten voter-hours last year.”
“We need every single vote in Florida,” Romney told the crowd in Sanford today. “We can begin a better tomorrow, tomorrow.”
Last Updated on Monday, 05 November 2012 17:22
Category: Breaking News Written by Kunbi Tinuoye, thegrio
There’s just one day to go before the presidential election, and on Sunday African-American church leaders fired up their congregations to exercise their right to vote.
Rev. Samuel Mosteller, assistant pastor of Atlanta’s Good Shepherd Community Church, told theGrio, though he didn’t deliver the morning sermon, he made a special announcement urging his parishioners to cast their ballots. “I want 100 percent of my congregation to vote.”
He said however, his message is non-partisan. “Individually, I’ll vote for Obama but I don’t encourage or advocate a specific candidate. It’s part and parcel of the separation of church and state.”
This drive to encourage churchgoers to go to the polls comes amid growing unease over tough new voting laws and other legislation, which activists say are just tactics to disenfranchise the electorate, particularly minority voters. Indeed, in many cases pastors are stepping up their efforts because this is a very close election.
Antioch Baptist Church North in Atlanta has gained some recent notoriety for being the hometown church of former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain. Despite Cain’s connection, Antioch is known for its liberal activism.
Sunday was a robust morning service. Coincidentally, it included a special celebration paying homage to members who have given 30 or more years of continuous service.
Rev. Hill delivered the sermon. His message focused on holding onto faith, with occasional references to the struggle for equal rights and political activism.
“Just over 50 years ago our pioneers couldn’t cast a vote,” said Hill. “It’s what our pioneers endured,” that has given African-Americans the right to sit at the front of a bus, he added.
The charismatic senior pastor Rev. Cameron Madison Alexander closed Antioch’s 11am service. “You better vote Tuesday,” he told his parishioners. “I have got a feeling that everything is going to be alright, but you better vote.”
President of the North Carolina NAACP, Rev. William Barber, was a guest preacher at Dr. John D. Fuller’s Lewis Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Barber has in the past said he is on a mission to mobilize the African-American community and other minority groups to vote.
In a fiery sermon, Barber said it is imperative that whoever becomes president must address issues which disproportionately affect the poor, minorities and low-income families.“There is no other sin more denounced by our Holy Scriptures for political leaders that hold power than social injustice and refusing to make the playing field fair for all,” said Barber.
“God’s way — says that at the heart of any church, community, or desire to hold and use power; at the heart of any national agenda, state agenda — the poor, broken-hearted, blind, bruised, captive and those made to feel unaccepted should be at the center of our attention and concern,” he added.
“The question constantly before this nation that we must remember, especially in this season of national elections, is what kind of nation will we be? How will the heart of the nation function? What will be the guiding principles at the heart of how we make public policy decisions that affect the lives of all people? These questions are not just at the heart of our democracy but according to the scriptures have always been at the heart of our faith.”
Barber also challenged the congregation to ask the presidential candidates where they stand on issues such as educational inequality, access to healthcare for all and disparities in the criminal justice system.
Last Updated on Monday, 05 November 2012 17:15
Category: Breaking News Written by The Root
From Janelle Monáe's big win to Dionne Warwick's Living Legend award, we recall the show's highlights.
Last Updated on Monday, 05 November 2012 14:27
Category: Breaking News Written by thegrio
A series of major polls released on Sunday showed President Obama ahead nationally and in key states, making him the favorite to win on Tuesday.
A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey showed Obama at 48 percent of the vote, while Mitt Romney had 47 percent. The Pew Research Center put the president at 50 percent, while Romney had 47. The Washington Post-ABC News poll showed Obama at 49, Romney 48. Surveys released by Rasmussen and Politico showed the race tied.
All of the polls are within the margin of error, but the group of findings, in which Romney did not lead in any of the surveys, suggests a narrow Obama lead. The president also led 50 percent to 48 percent in a Columbus Dispatch poll of Ohio, the state both campaigns are aggressively contesting. The Des Moines Register showed the president ahead 47 to 42 in Iowa, a must-win state for Obama. In Florida, a must-win for Romney, one major poll put Obama ahead by two, while another showed Romney leads by six.
Currently, Obama is favored in states that compromise 237 total electoral votes, while Romney leads in states that toal 191. That includes 41 states. Of the nine that are closest, Romney leads in North Carolina, while Obama is ahead in Nevada, New Hampshire, Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin, according to most surveys. The president would have 271 electoral votes if he carried only Iowa, Ohio and Wisconsin, giving him enough to win. Colorado, Florida and Virginia are effectively tied.
Romney is making a last-ditch effort in Pennsylvania, but is behind in most polls there.
Last Updated on Monday, 05 November 2012 14:20
Category: News Briefs Written by WWJ
YPSILANTI, Mich. (WWJ) – Police say an Eastern Michigan University student could face criminal charges after he made up a story about being robbed at gunpoint on campus.
The student claimed he was robbed of his wallet by four men Friday night on the northern edge of the EMU campus near Huron River Drive and then punched before the assailants fled.
AnnArbor.com says EMU’s report has been forwarded to the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s office for review and possible charges. The student could also face punishment from the university.
Last Updated on Monday, 05 November 2012 14:03
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