Kilpatrick: No e-mail on stripper
Detroit — Former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was emphatic Monday that he never exchanged e-mail with anyone regarding the murdered stripper who allegedly danced at a long-rumored party at the Manoogian Mansion.
Kilpatrick, testifying publicly under oath for the first time in the 6-year-old Tamara “Strawberry” Greene case, said in federal court that the lawsuit was a low priority for him.
His testimony was the first public sighting of Kilpatrick since the disgraced mayor was arraigned in January on racketeering conspiracy and other charges.
“I thought it (this lawsuit) was frivolous then and even more so now,” Kilpatrick told Greene family attorney Norman Yatooma. “You did a good job stretching it out this long.”
Yatooma is trying to prove whether Kilpatrick or the city intentionally destroyed e-mail that could shed light on Greene’s death. It’s one aspect of a broader lawsuit, filed in 2005, accusing the former mayor and city of obstructing an investigation into the woman’s unsolved death.
The lawsuit, perhaps the least of Kilpatrick’s legal concerns, is proceeding while the former Detroit mayor awaits trial on criminal charges that could send him to prison for decades. The Greene family suit seeks $150 million.
During more than two hours of testimony, Kilpatrick portrayed himself as a technological rube who paid little notice to the Greene family lawsuit, which has continually dogged his administration and personal life.
The hearing drew a noticeably smaller crowd than Kilpatrick’s previous court appearances. U.S. Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen had moved the session to a larger courtroom but only a dozen people, mostly media and two sketch artists, showed up.
Kilpatrick had traded in his prison uniform for a light-blue dress shirt and a gray and yellow tie.
Two former city officials also testified Monday there were no instructions to preserve city e-mail belonging to the former mayor and others — despite a federal judge ordering the preservation of evidence.
Kilpatrick attorney James C. Thomas said that’s far from proving willful and intentional destruction of evidence. Thomas spoke with reporters after the hearing during which Yatooma tried to prove evidence was intentionally destroyed.
“He’s got a pretty high burden,” Thomas said. “He’s falling far short but the hearing’s not over.”
The hearing will continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday and feature testimony from ex-Detroit Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings and two former Kilpatrick bodyguards.
Suit raises accusations
Greene allegedly performed at a rumored Manoogian Mansion party in fall 2002 and was killed in April 2003.
The civil lawsuit has raised a host of accusations, including one that former first lady Carlita Kilpatrick attacked Greene with a two-by-four at the never-proven Manoogian party.
The case also revealed the mysterious disappearance of Kilpatrick’s former desktop office computer. Kilpatrick says he left it for his successor, Kenneth Cockrel Jr., who claims he never saw it.
Outside court Monday, Thomas, the Kilpatrick lawyer, said Cockrel was mistaken. Cockrel gave the FBI access to the computer’s hard drive about three months after Kilpatrick resigned in September 2008, Thomas told reporters.
Inside court, Kilpatrick sought to dismiss allegations his administration worked to scuttle the investigation into Greene’s death to protect his own indiscretions.
“Unequivocally, we never discussed Tamara Greene,” he said.
After the hearing, Yatooma called Kilpatrick a “seasoned liar.”
“You don’t come in with this kind of lineup expecting, well, the truth,” Yatooma told reporters.
“You hope and pray for it, but can’t reasonably expect it.”
Officials unaware of policy
The hearing also featured testimony from 36th District Judge Ruth Carter and John Johnson, who both served as the city’s top attorney at times during the Kilpatrick administration.
During their testimony, neither seemed to know the city’s policy regarding preservation of electronic records. And neither said they had asked city workers to keep records once they were named in a lawsuit.
Earlier, Kilpatrick testified he did not remember a federal judge ordering the city to preserve e-mail and other evidence in 2008.
In five minutes of cross-examination by city attorney John Schapka, Kilpatrick said “no” when asked if heintentionally deleted any e-mail after a judge ordered evidence be preserved.
Kilpatrick also said he never sent or received e-mail referring to Greene or the homicide investigation.
Yatooma spent considerable time questioning Kilpatrick about his e-mail account and whether evidence was preserved.
“If (the preservation order) included me, I completely complied,” Kilpatrick said, laughing.