Greene lawyer: Testimony proves city e-mails were destroyed on purpose
Detroit— Testimony given by current and former city officials proves e-mails were intentionally destroyed and the city should be penalized, said a lawyer representing the family of Tamara “Strawberry” Greene.
Greene family lawyer Norman Yatooma said three days of testimony by former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, ex-Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings and others proves the e-mails were destroyed. He wants a judge to penalize Detroit by issuing a default judgment in a long-running civil lawsuit filed by the slain exotic dancer’s family.
“Kwame Kilpatrick, (former top city lawyer) Ruth Carter and Ella Bully-Cummings all sent and received e-mail that was never deleted but we’ve got none, zero,” Yatooma said.
His comments followed the conclusion of testimony in U.S. District Court in Detroit today by Bully-Cummings and two former Kilpatrick bodyguards: Mike Martin and Loronzo Jones. All three said they never intentionally destroyed e-mails about Greene or an investigation into her unsolved killing.
But Yatooma says the city has failed to turn over e-mails from the three.
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 that accuses the former mayor and city of obstructing an investigation into the woman’s unsolved death.
City lawyer John Schapka and Kilpatrick lawyer James C. Thomas said Yatooma has failed to prove the city willfully and intentionally destroyed e-mails.
“He still has an uphill battle,” Thomas told reporters outside the courtroom.
Kilpatrick’s former chief of staff and mistress, Christine Beatty, is expected to testify via phone next Wednesday.
Bully-Cummings spent almost two hours on the stand today, saying she never exchanged e-mails with Kilpatrick or Beatty about the Greene killing or homicide investigation.
At any time “did you ever intentionally destroy e-mail traffic about Tamara Greene or the investigation into her death?” Schapka asked her under oath this morning.
“No,” she answered.
“At any time, did you direct someone to destroy e-mail traffic?” Schapka asked.
“Absolutely not,” Bully-Cummings said.
Bully-Cummings was a top ranking officer when Greene — who is rumored to have danced at a never-proven party at the Manoogian Mansion — was killed in April 2003, and was promoted to chief in November 2003.
Yatooma pressed, many times unsuccessfully during 90 minutes of questioning, to pin down Bully-Cummings on specific details about her e-mail usage.
Repeatedly, Bully-Cummings deflected questions by responding she couldn’t recall, “as I sit here today.”Kilpatrick has denied the allegations and called the case “frivolous.” He testified Monday that Greene’s death was never a topic of conversation among high-ranking officials and not a subject of his e-mail.
“Unequivocally, we never discussed Tamara Greene,” he said.
After the hearing Monday, Greene family attorney Norman Yatooma called Kilpatrick a “seasoned liar.”
Greene family lawyers say they believe that e-mail that could help their case is missing.
Although Kilpatrick and Carter testified they rarely used e-mails, they did confirm on Monday that much of the electronic communication done by city officials was via text pagers. Yatooma has sought those records as well.
Former bodyguard Loronzo Jones also testified he “hardly ever” used his city-issued computer during a nine-month period in 2002-03. His job protecting Kilpatrick kept him away from the office and a computer most of the time, Jones testified.
And he was never told to preserve any evidence, particularly e-mails, related to Greene, the lawsuit or homicide investigation despite a federal judge ordering the city to do so in March 2008.
Jones and fellow bodyguard Greg Martin disputed an accusation contained in a court filing in November that both were caught on videotape attending Greene’s funeral.
The Rev. Kenneth Hampton of Grace Bible Church in Detroit gave a copy of the tape to Detroit Police executives, according to the filing.
Yet the videotape and funeral registry are missing from the homicide file, Yatooma wrote in the court filing.
“Did you attend,” Greene family lawyer Kirkland Garey asked Jones.
“No,” Jones said.
“Absolutely not,” Martin said.