MSC turns down grievance administrator appeal in Stefani case

The Michigan Supreme Court issued an order Wednesday denying an appeal in the attorney discipline case against Michael L. Stefani, the attorney who gave information to the Detroit Free Press during the newspaper’s investigation into former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s misdeeds in office.

The Attorney Discipline Board had increased Stefani’s discipline from a reprimand to a 30-day suspension.

Both parties appealed, and the suspension was stayed pending the Court’s order. With the denial of the appeal, the Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court has denied the administrator’s appeal, and Stefani’s suspension will be 30 days, starting 21 days after the order.

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Kilpatrick lawyer applies for leave at MSC

Farmington Hills-based lawyer Daniel Hajji has applied for leave at the Michigan Supreme Court, hoping the court will hear arguments in the case surrounding his client Kwame Kilpatrick’s book proceeds.

Hajji applied for leave Tuesday. He argues that Michigan law that precludes Kilpatrick from making money from the publication of his book, “Surrendered | The Rise, Fall & Revelation of Kwame Kilpatrick,” is unconstitutional.

The book is selling for $26.95. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge David Groner ruled that any proceeds must be applied toward Kilpatrick’s restitution to the city. He still owed some $860,000.

In his Michigan Court of Appeals brief, Hajji wrote that the state’s “Son of Sam” law “must fail constitutional scrutiny, as all such similar statutes have, because the statute is overinclusive, the statute is neither necessary nor narrowly tailored to further compelling state interest, the statute creates a financial disincentive to create or publish works of speech based on its content, and such financial disincentive acts as a prior restraint on speech itself.”

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s brief in Michigan Court of Appeals says that The William Van Regenmorter Crime Victim’s Rights Act (Act 87 or 1985), at MCL 780.768 provides that a person convicted of a crime cannot profit from memorabilia or works that convey the convicted’s thoughts or feeling about the offense until restitution is paid.

In August, the Michigan Court of Appeals denied leave for lack of merit on the grounds presented.

Hajji appeals to the Michigan Supreme Court, which may consider after Nov. 1 to hear the case.

COA turns down Kilpatrick appeal to keep book money

The Michigan Court of Appeals today denied former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s appeal to keep profits from the publishing of his memoir, which have been ordered into an escrow account to pay $860,000 in restitution to the city of Detroit.

The court denied the appeal “for lack of merit in the grounds represented.”

Kilpatrick’s lawyer, Daniel P. Hajji, argued in his brief that Michigan’s “Son of Sam” law, which prohibits people convicted of crimes from profiting from publicity they garner as a result of those crimes, is an unconstitutional content-based restriction on speech.

Hajji said in an email to Michigan Lawyers Weekly that his client intends to appeal to Michigan Supreme Court. In the brief, Hajji stated that this is a case of first impression.

Kilpatricks named in city hall corruption indictments

The Detroit Free Press just reported that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has indicted former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, city contractor Bobby Ferguson, former top Kilpatrick aide Derrick Miller and former water department chief Victor Mercado as “part one of the largest public corruption investigations ever in the City of Detroit.”

In a news story, Jim Schaefer and M.L. Elrick — the Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters who in 2008 broke the Kwame Kilpatrick text-message scandal that eventually forced the ex-mayor out of office — reported:

Miller and Ferguson are … close friends of the former mayor. Miller was a former basketball teammate of Kilpatrick’s at Cass Technical High School and later worked for his mother, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Detroit). In 2002, Kwame Kilpatrick appointed Miller as his chief administrative officer.

Ferguson, who owns a Detroit demolition and excavation company, became friends with Kilpatrick after Kilpatrick was elected state representative in 1996. They socialized, rode motorcycles together and Kilpatrick appointed Ferguson as the city’s cleanup czar. Under Kilpatrick’s tenure, Ferguson’s business with the city increased dramatically.

Mercado, who became the highest-ranking Hispanic city official when Kilpatrick named him head of the water department in 2002, said in September that he had testified before the federal grand jury in Detroit. At the time, he said he was told he was not the focus of the investigation.

Mercado, who was the general manager of the Bexar Metropolitan Water District in San Antonio, Texas, offered no further details.

Today’s announcement follows earlier convictions of several of Kilpatrick’s closest associates, including two brothers on his staff who were childhood friends, and charges of fraud and tax evasion against the ex-mayor himself.

Kilpatrick currently is in state prison on a separate matter: violating his probation on perjury-related charges in the text message scandal that led to his downfall.

The federal probe of Detroit City Hall, first reported by the Free Press in 2008, has already led to criminal charges against 20 people. Of those, 15 have been convicted of charges ranging from bribery to bid rigging, with many of the defendants cooperating with federal investigators.

The grand jury issued today’s indictments right up against deadline as the jury’s 36-month appointment limit runs out Dec. 31. Had the indictments not been issued, the federal government would have had to request an extension or start from scratch with another grand jury.

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…. Or get off the pot

Detroit’s city attorney John Schapka is saying enough is enough, and will ask U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen to dismiss a suit against the city.

The suit was filed by the family of Tamara Greene, a dancer who the family’s attorney Norman Yatooma said danced at an alleged party at the mayoral mansion in Detroit. Six months after the rumored party, she was later murdered, and Yatooma says the city thwarted the investigation of her death. In the five years since the suit was filed, there have been 38 depositions, and more than 13,500 pages of police reports and other documents, and more than 11 million police and fire computer files, according to a story in today’s Detroit Free Press.

That’s quite enough, said Schapka. If the proof isn’t in all that documentation, it’s time to dismiss the case.

Kilpatrick family can be questioned

The Detroit Free Press reports this morning that attorney Norman Yatooma can question former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s wife and father.

Yatooma represents the family of Tamara Greene, a dancer who was murdered in 2003, months after allegedly dancing at a fabled party in 2002 at the mayoral residence. The family claims the city botched the investigation of her death.

The story just gets stranger

Those who have been watching as Birmingham attorney Norman Yatoomah continues on his quest to prove that the Detroit Police Department botched the investigation of the murder of Tamara Greene, the story just continues to climb the weirdness scale.

He’s got a witness, the first to say under oath, that a fabled party (where Greene is said to have danced) at the Manoogian Mansion not only occurred, but that the guest list was impressive, and he even saw Attorney General Mike Cox get a lap dance. But the witness, Wilson Kay Jr.,  it turns out, has not always been the most upstanding guy, and has a criminal record which casts doubt on his credibility.

The Free Press reports here.