Judge releases court documents in stripper case
Few revelations are detailed in thousands of pages of documents unsealed Monday from the now-dismissed $150 million lawsuit filed by the family of a slain Detroit stripper, but they show how contentious the case became for attorneys, investigators and others embroiled in it.
A federal judge made public Monday thousands of pages of documents that stem from the investigation into the slaying of Tamara “Strawberry” Greene, a 27-year-old stripper killed in April 2003, months after she allegedly danced for former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick at the Manoogian Mansion.
In November, Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen dismissed the suit, concluding there was not enough evidence to show municipal liability. He released the documents that supported his decision.
Attorney Norman Yatooma’s lawsuit grabbed headlines for years, but no one ever proved a party occurred or Greene’s death had anything to do with it. Yatooma disagreed with Rosen’s decision to keep some records sealed.
“A lot of the more compelling stuff is still remaining behind closed doors,” said Yatooma.
The documents reveal anger by Michigan State Police investigators toward former Attorney General Mike Cox and his staff over handling of the investigation into the alleged party and the mayor’s security team.
State police were brought in at the request of the city, but almost immediately clashed with Cox, who sought an equal role in the investigation.
Robert Bertee was the second-in-command with Michigan State Police when the Manoogian rumors exploded. In a 2009 deposition, he said he and his boss were troubled by the active role Cox’s office took and were shocked when Cox himself chose to interview Kilpatrick without state police investigators involved and without recording the interview.
Bertee said he complained to Tom Furtaw, a Cox aide, that it was “absolutely unbelievable” that the attorney general would conduct the Kilpatrick interview.
“That’s unprecedented in my 30 years in the Michigan State Police when working with local prosecutors, Attorney General’s Office or United States Attorney’s Office,” Bertee said, the documents reveal.
Cox has defended his handling of the case, telling The News in 2008: “It was clear that there was not a party and there were no criminal acts. They (state police) had wandered off the farm.
“They had become obsessed with Manoogian Mansion and strippers.”
The documents include a handful of other interesting snippets:
The depositions grew so contentious that, in 2010, Kilpatrick attorney James C. Thomas challenged Yatooma: “Point your finger at me again and I’m going to break it off and shove it …,” to which Yatooma retorted: “Do that, do that now.”
Kilpatrick declined to answer dozens of questions during two depositions, citing his rights against self-incrimination. He said he only recalled having sex once with Detroit police monitor Sheryl Robinson Wood, but couldn’t recall details.
“I had a cheating spirit and I’m paying very dearly for it,” Kilpatrick said in 2010.
Years earlier, Kilpatrick acknowledged that some of his peers in the state house, where he was a representative, had a favorite place to meet: Strip clubs.
“… Unfortunately or fortunately, a lot of my colleagues in Lansing — not a lot, but a few of them, that’s where they liked to meet.
“So in Lansing and in other cities around the state, you know, if that’s where they wanted tomeet, I would meet them there,” he said in 2010.
Former Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings said, “I don’t recall” or variations thereof more than 230 times during a five-hour deposition.
She uttered the phrase so much — especially when it came to her opinion of former Deputy Chief Gary Brown — that Yatooma asked if she had a brain injury.
“You don’t recall so many things, but here you don’t even recall if you liked or disliked someone,” Yatooma said.
One-time Police Officer Harold Nelthrope, one of three officers who won an $8.4 million whistleblower suit against Kilpatrick that ultimately led his jailing, told attorneys that Kilpatrick once gave them a Glock pistol to dispose of.
Kilpatrick brought the gun to Nelthrope and another officer, asking if they knew anyone who wanted to buy it, Nelthrope testified. They didn’t, but took the gun; it disappeared the next day.
The released documents don’t include depositions of Cox , who deemed the party an “urban legend”; Kilpatrick’s former chief of staff, Christine Beatty; his wife, Carlita; father, Bernard Kilpatrick; and two former bodyguards.
Yatooma, who is appealing Rosen’s dismissal of the Greene family case, said the testimony of six police officers, who were either demoted or terminated because of their investigation into Tamara Greene, were enough to go to trial.
“There has to be a reason why cops keeps losing their jobs for investigating those things relevant to Tammy Greene,” Yatooma said.
“Those reasons should have been fleshed out in front of a jury. Rosen wouldn’t let us. Hopefully the Court of Appeals will.”