You read here first on my ClickOnDetroit.com blog May 17, 2011about the vital Magistrate?s hearing in the Federal lawsuit Tamara Greene?s family filed against the City of Detroit. My piece called "Detroit Lawyers Face Possible Trouble In Tamara Greene Case" quoted from testimony given in court when there were no reporters around to hear.
We discovered in the release of court documents we gathered under the Freedom of Information Act Detroit?s attorneys involved in the case for years were all claiming ignorance and pointing fingers at each other. John Schapka, the deputy Detroit City Attorney currently handling the Greene case said he knew nothing of the evidence preservation order given by Federal Judge Gerald Rosen in the case in 2008 because he was fired from the case by his boss, then Detroit City corporation counsel John Johnson Jr. Earlier in the day current corporation counsel Crystal Crittendon said she knew nothing of that order either. In testimony given days earlier Johnson himself said he knew nothing of the order to save all emails and other evidence in the case. In my blog I said it was clear someone was lying and it was up to Magistrate Whalen to decide who and what should be done about it.
Well, the Magistrate made his ruling late yesterday and it was a barn burner!
He pointed out former Detroit City Attorney John Johnson Jr. as the culprit. Whalen put no sugar on the fact Johnson knew about the order, did not do his duty as an officer of the court and evidence that should be available to try this case was destroyed. ?It would be a gross understatement to say that the City acted in bad faith and was at fault in causing the destruction of evidence? Most disturbing is the testimony of John Johnson, testimony that I find to have been dishonest and misleading? In a word, Mr. Johnson?s actions in 2008 and his testimony at the evidentiary hearing were outrageous. However much he attempts to point fingers and shift blame to others, he was in charge. He not only failed to disseminate the Court?s orders, but took actions that would virtually guarantee that those orders were not complied with. He was utterly delinquent in his duty to see that his clients complied with Judge Rosen?s orders, and in his obligation to give honest and candid testimony before this Court. The emails that were explicitly ordered preserved were instead destroyed under his watch.?
This is a major victory for Tamara Greene?s family. The case, once again, is not about the alleged Manoogian Mansion Party or whether former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick may have somehow been involved in Tamara Greene?s death. The case involves whether there was a cover-up inside the Detroit Police Department that prevented the case from being properly investigated in the first place. Magistrate Whalen?s ruling shows minimally there was a cover-up in the gathering of evidence ordered by a Federal Judge which only further fuels the Greene family?s claim others in the Kilpatrick Administration had orders from the Mayor?s office to keep the case quiet.
So what did Magistrate Whalen say should be done about it? Whalen granted what is known as an adverse inference instruction to any potential jury. That means the jury should be told the city covered up evidence inside a cover-up case. That is highly damaging to the City?s defense. Whalen also ordered the City of Detroit to pay all the Greene family?s legal bills in a long and difficult hearing process. This puts the City in the unenviable position of trying a case much like swimming upstream in the Detroit River with a freighter heading its way. Kwame Kilpatrick spent more than a year in jail for a parole violation because he wasn?t truthful to the court about his financial position. He?s looking at the possibility of perhaps ten years or more in prison for Federal tax and racketeering charges, all facts the jury pool knows. To be told in the jury box the City deliberately did not come clean in providing evidence in this case makes the trial more than a little difficult to win.
One of the facts many Detroiters do not know about the Tamara Greene case is, should the City lose it must pay! Would the jury award $1 million, $5 million, $100 million? No one knows. Again, whatever that number might be, the City MUST pay. It can?t go into default or enter receivership or something to avoid the bill. The City, if it could not afford to pay, [and it obviously can not] would have to levee a new tax on Detroit City residents to raise the cash to pay the Greene family?s damages. It is fairly clear Kwame Kilpatrick?s baleful governance cost the City and its residents millions of dollars they could ill afford to lose. At this point it only seems obvious that Mayor Bing needs to bring this chapter to a close now, rather than later. This is likely only to get more expensive the longer the City fights. Chancing what a jury would do with the Tamara Greene case does not appear a good gamble.
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