Yatooma argues city lawyers should receive discipline in Greene case

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Detroit— Current and former city lawyers should be disciplined for blatantly disregarding a federal judge’s order to preserve emails and other evidence that could shed light on the death of slain stripper Tamara “Strawberry” Greene, a lawyer argued in a court filing late Tuesday.

In a scathing 20-page brief filed in U.S. District Court, Greene family lawyer Norman Yatooma asked a judge to hold the city and former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick in default in a $150 million civil suit filed by Greene’s family. The suit accuses Kilpatrick and the city of obstructing an investigation into the woman’s unsolved death.

The filing Tuesday followed five days of testimony, held over six months, from Kilpatrick and several current and former city officials, including a number of attorneys that at various times headed the Detroit Law Department.

Yatooma said the testimony revealed ever-changing stories about what happened to emails and other evidence that Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen ordered be preserved in March 2008. City lawyers failed to read the judge’s order requiring them to preserve evidence and misled the court to cover up their malfeasance, Yatooma wrote.

“The city lawyers are liars,” Yatooma wrote.

Yatooma is trying to prove whether Kilpatrick or the city intentionally destroyed email related to 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 killing.

Greene is rumored to have danced at a never-proven party at the Manoogian Mansion, the mayor’s official residence. Greene was killed in an unsolved drive-by shooting in 2003.

Yatooma has failed to prove that any emails relating to Greene, her death or homicide investigation ever existed or were destroyed, Kilpatrick lawyer James C. Thomas wrote in a separate filing late Tuesday.

The city cannot preserve evidence that never existed, city lawyer John Schapka wrote in another filing late Tuesday.

Greene family lawyers “failed to marshal or present any evidence whatsoever reflecting that any such email traffic was in fact destroyed, and if so, when, why and by whom,” Schapka wrote.

Testimony from Kilpatrick and other current and former city officials during hearings held over the course of six months revealed contradictions, Yatooma wrote.

The city’s top lawyer, Krystal Crittendon, testified she was unaware of the judge’s preservation order until fall 2010 — more than two years after the order was issued. Yet lawyer Mayer Morganroth, who represented Kilpatrick and the city, said Crittendon and Schapka were served with the preservation order in 2008.

Schapka testified he was aware of the order but did not read it because he was “fired off the case” in January 2008, two months before the order was issued.

His boss, former Detroit Law Department head John Johnson, testified that he relied on Schapka and Crittendon to ensure the preservation order was obeyed, Yatooma wrote.

Johnson’s testimony amounted to perjury, Yatooma wrote.

Schapka should have immediately told the judge that Johnson was not testifying truthfully, Yatooma wrote.

“The bottom line is that every city lawyer passed responsibility for even reading, much less disseminating, this court’s preservation order,” Yatooma wrote. “The present and former city lawyers should be disciplined for their violations of their ethical obligations and blatant disregard of this court’s orders.”

http://detroitnews.com/article/20110601/metro01/106010379

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