Detroit Lawyers Face Possible Trouble In Tamara Greene Case

DETROIT — Those of us who have spent many hours looking into the Kilpatrick Administration and following the non-stop hearings in the related cases find ourselves reading reams of legal documents.

I spent my day today pouring through about 250 pages to try and wrestle to the ground the most recent events in the Tamara Greene case. The sum total of that raises a question we will soon seen posed in the Tamara Green case: what happens when a Federal Judge issues an order and those subject to that order don’t carry it out?

The answer opens the door to many possibilities.

The order is from Detroit’s Chief Federal Judge Gerald Rosen. In 2008, he told the City of Detroit to preserve all evidence, particularly e-mails on the computers of the Kwame Kilpatrick Administrative staff and the police department. Yet, in hearing after hearing inside the Federal Court House, we continue to get testimony from the former police chief [Ella Bully Cummings], the former City Law Department chief John Johnson, current City Law Department chief Crystal Crittendon and, believe it or not, current City of Detroit Defense Attorney [In the Tamara Greene case] John Schapka that leaves a lot to be desired, but leads nowhere!

Story: Kilpatrick Calls Greene Investigation ‘Frivolous’

The first three you might expect to hear testify. The last one was a surprise to me. But, in fact, Schapka wound up testifying before Federal Magistrate R. Stephen Whalen a couple of weeks ago. We did not learn about this until today when Local 4 ordered and received transcripts of the most recent hearing. That testimony is revealing in a number of ways and we will discuss that in a minute.

Right now, I want to sum up the reason for this blog. As best as I can determine, all of the Detroit City Attorneys involved with the Tamara Greene case deny receiving Judge Rosen’s order to preserve evidence and blame the other for it not seeing to it that the order was handed out to all City Departments that should have received that information. In effect, that meant Rosen’s order ended up ignored. It also means Tamara Greene’s attorney Norman Yatooma received little if any information he wanted to proceed with his case against the City. It also leaves considerable doubt about the City’s motives in the Tamara Greene case.

Let’s remember Yatooma’s case is NOT to prove the Manoogian Mansion Party happened or that Kwame Kilpatrick was somehow involved in Tamara Greene’s murder. Those are just the juicy headlines. This case is about whether the City of Detroit suppressed the police investigation into Tamara Greene’s murder. This latest development makes one wonder.

Now comes the John Schapka part of this story. It is highly unusual for a Defense Attorney to find himself on the stand. Yet, there he was. After spending some time in chambers with Magistrate Whalen discussing the matter, he went into great detail to explain his role in the lack of evidence getting turned in to the court for Yatooma. In short, he claims he was fired. Here are a couple of quotes. “John Johnson, who was then corporation counsel for the City of Detroit Law Department, met with me, summoned me to his office. He was very displeased that Kilpatrick was back in the case. [Previously Kilpatrick was removed as a personal defendant] His words were loud, high speed, high volume. I was given very little chance to talk. Later that day I was called in by my direct supervisor, a man named Frank Barbee, who related that per John Johnson’s directive I was to be relieved of any responsibilities in this matter. The exact words communicated to me by Barbee were that I was fired off the case.”

The transcript went on: “THE COURT: And this was in—when in January? MR. SCHAPKA: January of ’08. I can’t vouch for whether those are the exact words from Johnson to Barbee, but those were the words from Barbee to me. I was ordered to surrender the file, which I did. It was made fairly clear to me—THE COURT: Surrender the file to whom? MR. SCHAPKA: To Mr. Barbee or Crystal Crittendon. At that time the file was a very slender red rope because there was almost no action in the case up to that point. I did so. It was made very clear to me that a failure to do so may lead to a serious adverse employment action. I remained completely uninvolved. I was not going to disobey the direction or order and risk some adverse employment action until March of ’08 when I was reintroduced to the case under very strange circumstances. There was never an announcement. There was never a direction to get back involved. It was just go to this conference with miss Crittendon, and that was in front of Judge Rosen and I believe the docket sheet will show that date was march 14th of 2008.”

Schapka is clearly saying he did not give any direction to anyone regarding the preservation order because he was not involved in the case. Therefore he can not be held accountable.

Magistrate Whalen was not amused by any of this. It’s his job to decide whether Judge Rosen’s order was followed and what should be done if it was not. He demanded Schapka write an affidavit explaining his role. He also ordered another attorney involved in the case years ago, Mayer Morganroth, to do the same at that hearing. Morganroth is the very well known Metro Detroit attorney who represented many of the defendants in this case, but not all. He ultimately represented former Kilpatrick Chief of Staff and paramour Christine Beatty.

Today his affidavit came out in the file. It explains in great detail when he did what he did in this case. He made it clear he saw Judge Rosen’s order, and discussed it with the very attorneys who are now saying they never saw it and never gave it over to their clients.

Clearly the implication here is someone is lying somewhere! We have the Detroit attorneys all pointing to each other as if they have never been exposed to the law before! Schapka is pointing to the current and former heads of the City Law Department. Current head Crystal Crittendon says it is John Schapka. Former Law Department Chief John Johnson says it was Crittendon and Schapka.

Just who is lying and to what end are the issues for Magistrate Whalen to sort out. Needless to say, it is entirely possible someone is going to lose a job and it is also possible someone could lose a law license [or perhaps even worse]. Some final filings on this corner of the case will come out later this month. We’ll be there, looking with great anticipation to see how this unfolds. The Tamara Greene case just took a very interesting twist. This could also be a game changer.

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