Mixed opinions on whether Mercado's absence will affect the jury - FOX 10 News | myfoxphoenix.com

Mixed opinions on whether Mercado's absence will affect the jury

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DETROIT (WJBK) -- The jurors will notice something missing when they return to court next week -- Victor Mercado.  But just how will his absence affect their deliberations? Opinions are mixed.

"The judge will tell the jury don't worry about Victor Mercado.  No way.  The jury's going to say, 'Oh my gosh.  Did he take a plea to something?'  Oh yeah, the jury's going to be wondering," said Fox 2 legal analyst Charlie Langton.  "If I was Kwame Kilpatrick's attorney right now, I'd be a little worried."

If Jim Thomas is worried about Mercado's plea, he's doing a good job of hiding it.

"The jury can't take anything out of it.  They won't be told," he said.  "It doesn't really have any effect on our case."

However, there's no denying this is a major development in the Kilpatrick incorporated trial.  After more than two years of professing his innocence, Mercado pled guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion.

For more than a month, his attorneys argued passionately and persuasively that Mercado was not part of the "circle of trust".  That's the term they coined the describe the relationship between Kwame Kilpatrick, his father, Bernard, and contractor Bobby Ferguson.

"This is the right decision at the right time and a good plea offer," said Mercado attorney Martin Crandall.

Attorney John Minock hopes his client will get probation.  Mercado acknowledges helping Kwame Kilpatrick steer water department contracts to Bobby Ferguson, but language in the plea deal says quote, "Mercado tried to avoid this pressure, but from time to time he influenced the process to Ferguson's benefit in order to pacify and placate the former mayor."

Mercado walked into court Monday an innocent man.  An hour later, he walked out a different man, a guilty man, but his plea means he is no longer facing up to 20 years in prison.  At most, he will serve 18 months.

"I'm sure he's greatly relieved," Minock said.

Thomas says Mercado's sudden plea came as a surprise, but should not hurt the former mayor's chances as he fights on.

"This is one of several cases that I've had -- the terrorist case, the Fourth Precinct corruption case and, most recently, the Hutaree case -- where co-defendants have agreed to plea guilty and then everybody gets acquitted."

Next Tuesday, court will be back in session and Bobby Ferguson's attorney Gerald Evelyn will be back in the courtroom.  However, Mercado is done and won't be back until he is sentenced, which will happen after the trial.

How realistic is it to think Mercado can walk away without doing any prison time?

If all the other defendants are acquitted, he'll almost certainly get no time at all.  If they're found guilty, then the judge will have to weigh those matters and decide if many counts involving Mercado end up in guilty verdicts, then he could facing up to 18 months.

If the judge decides Mercado deserves more than 18 months, he could then withdraw the plea, which sets him on track for his own trial.

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