Kilpatrick cousin denies emails were destroyed

Detroit— A city lawyer could not explain what happened to more than 6,000 emails missing from the account of former Detroit Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings.

The missing emails surfaced Wednesday during a hearing in federal court to determine whether the city intentionally destroyed emails that could shed light on the unsolved killing of exotic dancer Tamara “Strawberry” Greene.

A federal judge could issue a default judgment against the city for failing to turn over the emails or grant a request from Greene family lawyer Norman Yatooma to conduct a forensic audit of every city computer and storage device. That process would be costly and last about four weeks.

City lawyer John Schapka could not explain why the emails were not turned over to Yatooma. He asked a computer expert Wednesday if the emails could have been corrupted because of a lightning strike and fire in June 2008 at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Building, which houses city computer servers.

Yatooma scoffed at the possibility.

“They’ve now resorted to acts of God,” Yatooma told reporters.

The hearing also included testimony from former Law Department head Krystal Crittendon and Kwame Kilpatrick cousin Patricia Peoples, the city’s former deputy human resources director.

The email probe is one aspect of a lawsuit filed in 2005 that accuses ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and the city of obstructing an investigation into Greene’s unsolved death.

Greene, who allegedly danced at a rumored party at the Manoogian Mansion, was killed in an unsolved drive-by shooting in 2003.

The city and Kilpatrick lawyer James Thomas have asked Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen to dismiss the lawsuit.

Greene family lawyers are trying to find emails received and sent by Kilpatrick and others from September 2002 through June 2003.

The city used a software program to access the email account of Bully-Cummings, who resigned in September 2008. The software found more than 6,900 emails in the account, but when Yatooma’s computer expert opened the disk, he found only 831.

“They were deleted by somebody,” said Scott Bailey, a forensic computer expert hired by Yatooma.

Under questioning by Kilpatrick lawyer Michael Naughton, Bailey conceded he could not determine the content of the deleted emails or whether they were sent or received between September 2002 and June 2003 — the time period in question in the case.

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