Filings grow for judge to open records in stripper lawsuit

Detroit — The list of parties trying to unseal secret court filings in a civil lawsuit filed by the family of a slain exotic dancer keeps growing.

Birmingham lawyer Norman Yatooma, who represents the family of Tamara “Strawberry” Greene, a slain exotic dancer alleged to have danced at a rumored Manoogian Mansion party, asked Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen on Wednesday to unseal evidence and exhibits as soon as possible. The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) today also asked the court to unseal court records and exhibits.

At issue is the public’s right to view documents in a high-profile legal fight that has captivated the public, but largely been waged behind a veil of privacy imposed by a U.S. District Court judge. It’s a case involving taxpayer dollars, public officials in Detroit and state government, a mistress, steamy text messages, strippers and drug dealers.

Specifically, the sealed records being sought include Yatooma’s response to efforts by the city of Detroit and ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to dismiss the civil lawsuit, which also are sealed. Yatooma argues his response should be unsealed because the city’s motion to dismiss was accidentally and briefly posted on the court’s computerized docket in September.

“Given the extraordinary public significance of the subject matter of this litigation, and the light it likely shines upon the corruption of the last administration of the city of Detroit — some of its actors remaining on the public stage — the court should make public all, or virtually all, of the sealed dispositive motion filings,” Free Press lawyer Herschel Fink wrote in today’s filing.

The civil lawsuit accuses Detroit and Kilpatrick of quashing an investigation into her 2003 drive-by shooting death several months after she was linked to a rumored but never proven party at the mayor’s mansion in fall 2002.

The filings are sealed because the court has issued orders protecting the privacy of witnesses during the discovery process and to preserve the integrity of an investigation into Greene’s death.

Yatooma’s response, filed late Wednesday minutes before a midnight deadline, included almost 100 sealed exhibits and other records, including deposition transcripts of current and former city and state officials. Those officials include former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox; ex-Detroit Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings; Christine Beatty, the mayor’s former chief of staff and mistress; 36th District Judge Ruth Carter; and Bernard Kilpatrick, the mayor’s father.

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