Detroit attorney Sam McCargo was “hung out to dry” by former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, according to former State Bar of Michigan President Thomas Cranmer, who testified as a defense witness at McCargo’s hearing before the Attorney Discipline Board last Friday.
Cranmer said, according to a report in The Detroit News, it’s not at all clear whether McCargo violated the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct.
From The Detroit News:
McCargo has been described as “the architect” of a secret settlement of a police whistle-blower suit that kept under wraps explosive and sexually explicit text messages between Kilpatrick and his former chief of staff Christine Beatty.
The settlement, under which the city paid $8.4 million to settle two civil lawsuits brought by three former police officers, was struck on Oct. 17, 2007 — the same day police attorney Michael Stefani showed McCargo a proposed court brief that quoted extensively from steamy text messages. They showed both Kilpatrick and Beatty had lied under oath at the whistle-blower trial. …
McCargo is charged with breaking state ethical rules for attorneys by not telling the judge in the case that Kilpatrick had lied and that Stefani had violated a judge’s order by receiving the text messages directly from the city’s former pager company, SkyTel, instead of through the court.
But Cranmer testified the ethical rules for attorneys in Michigan lack clarity. In trying to interpret them, “you’re left, I think, at sea, oftentimes,” testified Cranmer, a former president of the state bar who has served as a panelist and chairman for the discipline board. “This case is a perfect example of that.”
Cranmer testified that after Stefani advised McCargo about the text messages, McCargo had a duty to discuss the issue with his client and try to investigate further by obtaining the text messages. He said he believes McCargo attempted to do that.
He testified he doesn’t believe McCargo had a duty to go to Wayne Circuit Judge Michael Callahan, who presided over the 2007 whistle-blower trial, because the existence of an affair between Kilpatrick and Beatty was not “material” to the whistle-blower case and McCargo also had a duty to protect Kilpatrick’s secrets.
Testimony concluded Friday. If the ADB decides McCargo violated ethics rules, he would face a variety of potential sanctions, ranging from a reprimand to losing his law license.
Meanwhile, The Detroit Free Press reports that Kilpatrick’s use of nearly $1 million in campaign funds to defend himself against criminal charges could lead to some legislative reform of how campaign cash may be used in Michigan.
From The Freep:
State Sen. Gilda Jacobs, a Huntington Woods Democrat, has asked Attorney General Mike Cox to issue an opinion on whether elected officials can use political donations to pay for legal expenses in a criminal case.
Wayne County Clerk Cathy Garrett was the first to seek clarity on the issue when she asked Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land earlier this year to rule whether Kilpatrick’s expenditures were proper.
After studying the issue, Land said state law is unclear and told Garrett to have the ex-mayor seek a ruling from the Internal Revenue Service.
Instead, Garrett said on July 10 that Land’s office did not provide clear guidance and declared in a news release that the “expenses are proper under the campaign finance law.”
If the expenditures were deemed improper, Kilpatrick could have faced hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and taxes.
On Aug. 19, Jacobs turned to Cox.
No word yet from the AG.