Judge says Kilpatrick won't be getting new attorney in federal trial

Judge denies motion for James Thomas to be removed as former Detroit mayor's attorney

Published On: Aug 30 2012 04:16:27 PM EDT   Updated On: Aug 14 2012 07:04:52 PM EDT
Kwame Kilpatrick and Jim Thomas
DETROIT -

A U.S. District Court judge has shot down Kwame Kilpatrick's request for a different attorney going forward in his federal corruption case.

During a hearing Tuesday, Judge Nancy Edmunds said the former Detroit mayor had waited too long to report the so-called conflict of interest with attorney James Thomas.

Kilpatrick passionately, and directly, argued with Edmunds that he was having trust issues with Thomas after finding out he had represented a witness in the case - Gasper Fiore.

Gasper Fiore

--Gasper Fiore

Kilpatrick said he wasn't trying to delay the trial with a last-minute legal team switch.

"I'm not afraid of trial," Kilpatrick said.

READ: Kilpatrick attorney change request

But Edmunds argued that Kilpatrick should have seen Fiore's name on the witness list months ago - and should not have signed a waiver acknowledging he had reviewed the witness list and was OK with it.

Complete coverage: Kilpatrick's federal corruption trial

10:40 a.m. Judge says Kilpatrick, Thomas have history together

Thomas has represented Kilpatrick since 2008, particularly through the text message scandal. Judge says that despite the fact that the two should have had a conversation, their relationship going forward is not shaky enough to end it. There is substantial public interest going forward, 400 jurors, 200 witnesses. The other defendants have lawyers with busy schedules and other courts have accommodated the trial.

The case will for forward Sept. 6.

10:34 a.m. Judge says she'll deny motion

Edmunds says she will put out a written opinion this afternoon, but that she will be denying the motion for Kilpatrick to get a new attorney.

10: 31 a.m. Kwame speaking

Everybody wants me to act as co-council 

In June he was put on the witness list. It wasn’t until my study, my discovery, that I found that there may be a serious issue with this. That’s why I apologize to the court for the lateness of this. I haven’t had any intervention with the police until I was 38 years old. I’m as perplexed and emotionally gut-wrenched that my attorney should have known. 

It wasn’t to delay the trial. I'm not afraid of trial. I'm not afraid of anything they have. I need to trust the person sitting next to me.

10:26 a.m. Judge scolds Kilpatrick

Judge: “The fact is you signed a waiver of conflict over this issue. A waiver is something any third year law student would understand. You’re a smart guy.”

10:14 a.m. Prosecution dismisses witness from case

Kwame Kilpatrick says he no longer trusts his attorney and the two scream at each other about a conflict with a witness.

Prosecution says Kilpatrick waived a conflict, says Kilpatrick's last words were– I hereby do waive if these individual witnesses are called.

Prosecution says it was clear Fiore could be called as a witness and we don’t know what he’s talking about not knowing he could be part of the case. 

Fiore: $50,000 given to Mr. Ferguson, $25,000 payments made through a PAC to Kilpatrick’s campaign. In the case of the $25,000, he was hoping to get something in exchange for that.

Thomas received a witness list June 2nd 2012 with Fiore on it.

Three months before. That’s not trial by ambush. 

The court must look at the timing of the motion. Look at the communication break down and see if there is an adequate defense. He can’t say he’s no longer speaking to his attorney anyone can say that on the eve of trial.

10:05 a.m. Kilpatrick, judge debate

Judge: You have a legal education. 

Kilpatrick: You’re right, I do have a legal education  IT WAS unceremoniously taken from my by the bar. WE were being investigated for campaign finance violations. In Jan. 2011, I was sitting in a PRISON talking about campaign finance investigation. I thought he represented Mr. Fiore that he represented him on the $25,000 campaign check.

Judge: “YOU KNEW that issue was in the superseding indictment. Did you read it?”

Kilpatrick: I’ve never tried a criminal case. I’ve never looked at discovery I’ve trusted my lawyers to do their jobs. This time I’m not doing that. I’m going through each thing, timelines and everything.

IF there was representation of Mr., Fiore on a check to my campaign, it seems that should have come up in 2008, 2009, 2010. It never came up. Mr. Thomas kept the confidence of Mr. Fiore very very secure. All of this was shocking information to hear on Aug. 7  There was a tremendous lack of trust building between him and I. I absolutely do not trust the government. He says he has conversations with the government before me.

I believe this trial by ambush strategy is - we have ended in shouting matches. I don’t trust that he’ll be aggressive in going after them, I don’t trust he’ll be aggressive in finding the real truth in this case. 

Judge: In camera hearing, first thing to come out of your mouth is how much you love and trust Mr. Thomas. You love him, he represented you on many many matters and was your man going forward.

Kwame: I DO love him. I do trust him. He has put in work. When my mother cuts a Thanksgiving turkey, she doesn’t close her eyes and selects a knife. You can’t cut a turkey this way. I am not willing to take his advice.

9:52 a.m. Kilpatrick says witness is key to defense

Kwame Kilpatrick speaking: I didn’t have access to the tremendous amount of information gave us (prosecution).

First thing he said to me that stuck me as odd is that, “We already talked.” I said “Who is we?” I never knew of a conflict here. He never said to me that he may not be able to cross examine a witness.

I did my own study going through the discovery. His first conversation was with the government. I would like to hear WELL in advance that there may be a problem here.

WE left the call we were having with, "I will call you back." No call last Thursday Friday Sat Sun Monday – Monday I called and said, “Jim, what’s going on?” He said, “Oh the court has agreed to the independent council.”

I said “Jim, I don’t agree with that strategy. What I found is going through the witness list and discovery I found relationships there that would absolve me of ANY guilt.” 

Judge: There was no agreement., It was raised that there was a situation that needs to be addressed. There was no agreement that did not include you. I want everyone in this court to know.

Kilpatrick: Tuesday I told him I did not agree with the independent council strategy. We wrote an email together., When we started the in-camera hearing last week it was first time I have ever heard that Mr. Thomas represented Gasper Fiore before he represented me.

Thomas: I’ve been preparing for this trial 3.5 years but I ask for you to allow me remove myself.

9:50 a.m. Kilpatrick doesn't want Thomas to continue

James Thomas: Kilpatrick does not wish for me to go forward for him.

9:46 a.m. Conflict: Witness was past client of James Thomas'

The hearing is starting, all four defendants are seated at a table in the courtroom with their attorneys.

“I should say for Mr. Mercado’s motion for a separate trial, I am prepared to rule on that and will have a written statement later today," says Judge Nancy Edmunds.  

The motion hearing for the conflict of interest is now starting. 

James Thomas: Last week, we appeared in this court relating to an issue raised by Mr. Kilpatrick, where he indicted that there was a conflict of interest.

Thomas represented a witness now in the Kilpatrick case - Gasper Fiore - owner of Boulevard and Trumbull Towing.

Fiore was the subject of an FBI inquiry that ended in 2007.

In March 2008, Thomas was retained as Kilpatrick's attorney.

9:31 a.m. Kilpatrick enters courthouse

Kwame Kilpatrick has entered Federal Court for a hearing to deal with what he says is a conflict of interest with his attorney.

Kilpatrick no comment Aug 14

--Kilpatrick didn't have a comment on his way into court

Kilpatrick, others facing September trial

The former mayor is accused of running a criminal enterprise with family and friends which included taking cash bribes, kick backs, vacations, private jets and more in exchange for getting contracts in the city.

Other defendants in the case include Kilpatrick's dad Bernard Kilpatrick, his childhood friend Bobby Ferguson and ex-Detroit City Water boss Victor Mercado.

Kilpatrick enterprise gang image