---- — DETROIT (AP) — The former head of the Detroit water department pleaded guilty Monday in the middle of trial, admitting he rigged contracts and pressured businesses to hire then-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's pal for millions of dollars in public projects.
Despite his surprise guilty plea, there was no indication that Victor Mercado will be testifying against Kilpatrick in the weeks ahead. The corruption trial is in recess until Nov. 13 because a lawyer is ill.
Mercado, 61, never took a bribe or kickback but couldn't resist pressure from Kilpatrick to help Bobby Ferguson, who owned a construction company, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Chutkow said.
"He was a reluctant participant in this conspiracy. ... He did from time to time push back but compromised himself," Chutkow told the judge.
Mercado's plea agreement calls for a maximum prison sentence of 18 months.