Kwame Kilpatrick’s computer thrown away before he left office

Detroit— A federal judge today said he is “troubled” that ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s computer was thrown away seven months before he resigned in 2008, a move that thwarts an ongoing attempt to recover e-mails between the former mayor, his mistress and other city officials. The frank statement came during a routine hearing today in U.S. District Court in a lawsuit involving the city and family of Tamara “Strawberry” Greene, who allegedly performed at a rumored Manoogian Mansion party in 2002.

City lawyer John Schapka said that computers belonging to Kilpatrick and his former mistress and Chief of Staff Christine Beatty were thrown away and replaced in February 2008.

The computers, including the hard drives, were thrown away even though the Greene lawsuit was pending along with other legal cases involving electronic communication.

“I’m highly troubled by that,” U.S. Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen said. “The question is: What do we do?”

He might issue sanctions against the city. But before he decides, he wants Greene family lawyer Gary Hermanson to submit a brief within 14 days addressing the handling of evidence.

The city then would have two weeks to respond.

“We’re really pleased with the court’s ruling,” Hermanson said. “We’re hoping to get to the bottom of this.”

It was unclear why computers in the mayor’s office were replaced in February 2008. Schapka made an off-handed reference to the replacement in court today but declined comment after the hearing.

When Whalen asked him if it should have been obvious that the mayor’s electronic communication would have been relevant to the ongoing lawsuits, Schapka said “perhaps.”

Schapka said deleted e-mails cannot be retrieved from the city’s computer servers. The servers electronically shred deleted items after a short period of time, and the city does not have hardware or software to permit recovery, Schapka said.

Greene’s family wanted more than just e-mails. Hermanson also requested police department activity logs for every officer assigned to the 7th Precinct between August and September 2002.

The city turned over logs for every weekend during that time period. Whalen directed the city to conduct a good-faith search for records from weekdays during that time.

Greene’s family filed a lawsuit five years ago claiming a Detroit police investigation into Greene’s drive-by shooting death in April 2003 was quashed by authorities. U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Rosen has extended deadlines to Nov. 10 for the family’s lawyers to file responses to requests for summary judgment and dismissal of the lawsuit from its targets — the city and Kilpatrick.

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