Judge would let jury hear of purged emails in Greene lawsuit —
Detroit— A federal judge ruled Wednesday that a jury would be allowed to hear that four high-ranking city officials destroyed evidence if a lawsuit by the family of slain erotic dancer Tamara Greene proceeds.
But the judge also said the case has moved into “unchartered legal waters,” and he is undecided whether to allow the lawsuit.
In a 24-page opinion, U.S. Judge Gerald Rosen upheld an earlier ruling by federal Magistrate Judge Stephen Whalen that former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his Chief of Staff Christine Beatty, corporation counsel Ruth Carter and then-Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings willfully destroyed emails from Aug. 1, 2002, through June 30, 2003.
Rosen wrote that the city has tried to “avoid taking responsibility for egregious conduct that has seriously undermined the truth-seeking mission of civil litigation.”
Rosen also ruled the city must pay the legal fees of Norman Yatooma, the attorney representing Greene’s family in a federal lawsuit claiming that Kilpatrick and high-ranking members of his staff thwarted the investigation into her murder. The city has 14 days to pay the fees, Rosen ruled.
Yatooma called the decision “monumental,” but said he isn’t sure how much money he’ll be paid.
“It’s a bunch of money, but I’d be guessing at this point,” Yatooma said outside federal court, following a hearing in Rosen’s chambers.
During Wednesday’s three-hour hearing, Rosen said he is considering whether Yatooma’s lawsuit should proceed. Rosen said Yatooma had done a “good job” presenting evidence that a culture existed in the Kilpatrick administration to quash investigations of the former mayor, but questioned whether Yatooma proved that Kilpatrick or his appointees specifically thwarted the probe into Greene’s 2003 slaying.
Yatooma argued that if such a culture existed, effectively thwarting the Greene investigation, it should be enough to let the case go ahead. Rosen said he wasn’t sure if that was true.
“I don’t know what the legal standard is, and I’m not sure any court has yet identified it,” the judge said. “That’s why this is such a difficult case.”
Yatooma also said during the hearing that there was “positively a link between Kwame Kilpatrick and Tamara Greene, but that has been redacted (from court files).”
Rosen replied, “You’re trying to show that there was a relationship (between Kilpatrick and Greene), but I don’t want you to get into that, because it probably won’t be entered into trial.”
Attorneys for Kilpatrick and the city said no evidence exists showing that city officials quashed the investigation. “All he has is hearsay,” said city attorney John Schapka.
Kilpatrick’s attorney James Thomas said his client’s wrongdoing in other matters doesn’t affect the Greene case.
“We know that Kwame Kilpatrick lied in the past,” said Thomas, referring to the former mayor’s deal in which he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice after text messages showed he lied in court about his relationship with Beatty.
“But is his guilty plea evidence that he somehow interfered with the Tamara Greene investigation? I don’t think it is.”