Ferguson (David Coates / The Detroit News)
Detroit— Bobby Ferguson is headed to prison and his wife wants a divorce.
The controversial contractor’s wife Marilyn “Cookie” Ferguson, who was a recurring figure during a racketeering case against her husband and ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, filed for divorce days before her husband is set to be sentenced to prison on racketeering charges. Prosecutors are seeking up to 28 years Thursday for Ferguson and at least 28 for the former mayor.
The divorce filing surfaced Friday, one day after federal prosecutors alleged that Bobby Ferguson ordered his girlfriend and others to hide assets from federal agents, who were listening to his prison phone calls.
A divorce would end a marriage to one of the most notorious public figures in recent Detroit history. It’s a marriage that endured despite alleged affairs and mistresses who testified during two federal criminal cases against Bobby Ferguson.
“I want to respect her privacy at this time and I’ll leave it like that,” Marilyn Ferguson’s divorce lawyer Todd Perkins told The Detroit News. His client filed for divorce Wednesday.
Bobby Ferguson’s lawyer declined to comment.
Marilyn Ferguson, 46, factored into one of the most scandalous incidents from Bobby Ferguson’s past. In 2005, he was convicted of pistol-whipping a former employee who Ferguson accused of calling Marilyn late at night.
The man, Kennedy Thomas, won a $2.6 million jury verdict against Ferguson in 2007 but has spent years trying to collect on the payday amid appeals.
Federal agents who are hunting for money generated by the City Hall corruption scandal likely will want to talk to Marilyn Ferguson now that she has filed for divorce, said Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor and current law professor at Wayne State University.
“Any communication during the marriage, they can’t have her testify but she could testify about what she saw,” Henning said. “An ex-spouse could say, ‘I saw him burying money’ or ‘there were bank transfers.’ I would expect they will want to talk to her.”
The City Hall corruption trial, which ended in guilty verdicts against Kilpatrick and Ferguson in March, repeatedly mentioned Marilyn Ferguson and related business transactions.
In one text message shown to jurors, Ferguson lauds Kilpatrick. “You're the only boss I have besides (C)ookie.”
During the trial last year, Ferguson tried to prove he properly spent $250,000 in state grant money by producing doctored paperwork. The subcontract sent to the state by Ferguson's wife identified work done on a training area. But a contractor said his company was hired to renovate Ferguson's offices in Detroit, including a spiral staircase that led to Ferguson's “chilling pad,” an area with casual furniture and a big-screen TV.
During a separate bid-rigging trial last year, a federal agent described raiding Ferguson’s riverfront bachelor pad and finding photos of the married contractor with a female employee, who prosecutors say was also his girlfriend.
During the same trial, a former employee identified by federal agents as Ferguson’s girlfriend testified while Marilyn Ferguson sat in the courtroom gallery. Marilyn warmly greeted the woman after she left the witness stand.
During the City Hall corruption trial, a different girlfriend testified that Ferguson used straw donors to bankroll Kilpatrick's mayoral campaign.
In April, Marilyn Ferguson sued her husband for child support and revealed their teenage son was receiving public assistance after the government seized about $4 million in cash amid an ongoing search for money tied to the City Hall corruption scandal. The couple have five children.
Ferguson, 44, and his wife lived in a $330,000 house on Bretton Drive in Rosedale Park. In March, Ferguson agreed to forfeit his interest in the home, $460,000 seized by the FBI during the City Hall corruption probe, 15 pieces of heavy equipment and a Riverfront Towers condominium.
Marilyn frequently attended her husband’s trial on federal bid-rigging charges last year. The case ended in a mistrial months before the start of the City Hall corruption trial.
He is scheduled to be retried on bid-rigging charges in January. She attended a pretrial hearing in April and was spotted nibbling on her fingernails while being ignored by Ferguson.