Stripper: I was at the Manoogian Mansion party
A stripper has said under oath that she was at the long-rumored wild party at the Manoogian Mansion and saw the wife of then-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick attack Tamara Greene, a lawyer said Sunday.
The claim emerged in a 131-page legal brief Birmingham lawyer Norman Yatooma filed in hopes of persuading U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen to allow the suit in the death of Greene, also a stripper, to go to trial.
Tamika Ruffin told Yatooma in a sworn deposition that she was hired to dance at the party, where she saw 10 uniformed police officers, cocaine and marijuana. She also says she saw Carlita Kilpatrick, the mayor’s wife, assault Greene for giving a lap dance to the mayor.
The legal brief also says:
• Sheryl Robinson Wood, the former court-appointed monitor overseeing federally mandated reforms at the Detroit Police Department, had a sexual relationship with Kwame Kilpatrick. Her lawyer wouldn’t comment on the allegation.
• Former Detroit Law Department chief Ruth Carter tried to manipulate Attorney General Mike Cox’s investigation of the Manoogian party rumor. “With Cox involved, Kilpatrick and Carter knew the outcome of the investigation before it even began,” Yatooma said in the brief. Carter’s lawyer said the claim is nonsense, and Cox repeatedly has denied doing anything improper.
Kilpatrick’s lawyer, James Thomas of Detroit, said Yatooma’s brief failed to present any proof that Kilpatrick sabotaged the Greene probe, a central claim in the lawsuit.
“He doesn’t want the truth to get in the way of a good legal argument,” Thomas said of Yatooma.
Still a Manoogian mystery
It was 11 p.m. when Tamika Ruffin — an exotic dancer — showed up at Detroit’s mayoral mansion to do her thing.
Ruffin told Yatooma in a sworn deposition that she was to be paid $1,000 to perform at a party there.
What she got, she testified, was drama.
She said Carlita Kilpatrick, wife of then-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, walked into a large room on the first floor of the Manoogian Mansion where another stripper, Tamara Greene, was performing a lap dance for the mayor.
Carlita Kilpatrick demanded to know what was going on and said, “Who is this bitch?” Ruffin testified.
Ruffin said fists flew and that Greene appeared to be winning until the city’s first lady whacked Greene in the head with something that looked like a table leg, baton or a 2-by-4.
“It was big,” said Ruffin, who fled the party. She said she saw three Detroit police cruisers show up – despite having testified that there were 10 uniformed Detroit cops at the party. She also told Yatooma that marijuana and cocaine were provided to guests.
Ruffin said Greene stayed with her briefly two or three months afterward, and that Greene got several threatening phone calls from the mayor’s wife.
131 pages from Yatooma
Ruffin’s account emerged Sunday in a 131-page legal brief that Birmingham lawyer Norman Yatooma filed in hopes of persuading U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen to allow his lawsuit resulting from Greene’s death to go to trial. Yatooma filed an initial version of the document under seal two weeks ago, but refiled it publicly Sunday, with several redactions ordered by Rosen.
Greene, 27, was killed in a drive-by shooting in April 2003, about six months after she supposedly danced at the long-rumored, but never-proven party. Her three children sued the City of Detroit and Kilpatrick, saying they covered up her murder investigation to prevent her killers from being found.
Ruffin is the second person to tell Yatooma that she attended the party. But like the first witness — Wilson Kay Jr., a self-described biker who said he was hired to provide security at the bash — Ruffin may have credibility problems.
“She has a closed head injury, her memory was not very good on the details, and she lied during her deposition,” said Kilpatrick lawyer James Thomas of Detroit, who attended the deposition. He said he will address her lies in his response to Yatooma’s brief.
Among other things, Thomas said, Ruffin said the party happened in March 2003, even though most other witnesses who have claimed to have knowledge of the party said it occurred in fall 2002.
He said Ruffin is no more credible than Kay, who has a history of mental problems, according to records from one of his criminal cases.
Thomas said Yatooma’s brief contains a lot of irrelevant innuendo and salacious details, but no proof that Kilpatrick or other city officials sabotaged Greene’s murder investigation.
Ruffin, who had to be ordered by the judge to testify because she failed to appear for a prior deposition, could not be reached for comment.
City attorney John Schapka, who, with Thomas, has asked Rosen to dismiss the lawsuit, also could not be reached for comment.
Allegations of obstruction
Yatooma’s legal brief recaps much of what has been known publicly about the Manoogian party rumor and Greene’s unsolved homicide.
He devoted much of the brief to his assertion that Kilpatrick routinely disciplined, transferred and fired police employees and snuffed investigations that might have uncovered his extramarital affairs, including his long-term relationship with then-Chief of Staff Christine Beatty.
“Like the underlying investigation into Greene’s murder, the defendants simply terminated or obstructed whatever investigation they did not like,” Yatooma wrote in his brief.
Yatooma said Ruth Carter, then chief of the Detroit Law Department and now a 36th District Court judge, helped. He said text messages she sent to Kwame Kilpatrick and Beatty show that Carter tried to manipulate Attorney General Mike Cox’s investigation into the Manoogian party rumor. Among other things, he said, she tried to change the focus from Kilpatrick to the conduct of his police bodyguards.
Cox has stood by his investigation, which deemed the party to be an urban legend. But he has caught flak for, among other things, interviewing Kilpatrick without State Police investigators present.
Cox spokesman John Sellek said: “All of this has been reported 30,000 times. … Mike Cox has thoroughly explained it.”
Carter could not be reached, but her lawyer, Gabi Silver of Detroit, said Yatooma’s charges are nonsense.
“There was no effort to manipulate anything,” Silver said, explaining that Carter’s job responsibilities included handling such investigations and providing legal advice to potential witnesses.
She said the text messages Yatooma cited were taken out of context.
Outing an affair
Yatooma said in the filing that Kilpatrick repeatedly interfered in Detroit police activities, which prompted him to befriend Sheryl Robinson Wood.
The legal brief said Kilpatrick had an extramarital affair with Wood, the court-appointed monitor who oversaw federally mandated reforms at the police department starting in 2003.
Wood resigned in 2009 after federal investigators found text messages that showed she and Kilpatrick had inappropriate meetings.
Yatooma is the first person to publicly document that they had an affair.
“Incredibly, Kilpatrick testified that he had no recollection of how many times he had sex with Wood, the location of the trysts, or even the year in which they occurred,” Yatooma said Kilpatrick testified in a deposition.
Two weeks ago, the City of Detroit sued Wood and her former employers to recoup the $10-million-plus it paid for her work as monitor.
Her lawyer, David Schertler of Washington, D.C., didn’t comment Sunday on the allegations of an affair, but said Wood is “completely irrelevant to the Greene family’s lawsuit.”
Thomas said Kilpatrick admitted the affair during his deposition in the case.
Enough for a trial?
Yatooma said Kilpatrick’s desire to cover up his philandering, especially with Beatty, may have provided the motive to derail the Greene investigation.
Yatooma said in the document that the city destroyed potentially critical evidence by failing to preserve e-mails by Kilpatrick, Beatty and Carter — and by allowing Kilpatrick’s and Beatty’s computer hard drives to be thrown out in early 2008. He also said someone removed several documents and other items from Greene’s homicide file.
Yatooma said the missing items include a videotape that supposedly shows two of Kilpatrick’s police bodyguards at Greene’s funeral, a claim they denied in depositions.
A legal expert said Yatooma faces an uphill battle in persuading Rosen to let the case go to trial, rather than throw it out.
“He’s got a lot of facts that are certainly suspicious, but whether that shows a constitutional violation is another matter,” said Wayne State University law professor Peter Henning. He was referring to the Greene family’s claims that they were denied their right to sue Greene’s killer.
“His advantage in this case is if there are any disputed issues of fact, the judge is supposed to deny summary judgment. … He doesn’t need to prove his case, he only needs to show a factual dispute in the evidence that has to be resolved at trial.”