ADB hearing for another Kilpatrick text-message lawyer

It’s Wilson Copeland’s turn on the Attorney Discipline Board hot seat.

Copeland was one of several attorneys defending the city of Detroit in a whistleblower suit by two cops that lead to an $8.4 million settlement.

The deal was designed to keep private the now very public series of text messages that forced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick from office and into a short stint in the slammer.

According to The Detroit News

Hearings already have been completed for Michael Stefani, the lawyer who represented the whistleblower cops, and Samuel McCargo, a private practice lawyer hired by the city to represent then-Mayor Kilpatrick. Hearings for John E. Johnson, former head of the city’s legal department, and his assistant, current Deputy Corporation Counsel Valerie Colbert-Osamuede, have yet to be scheduled. …

The lawyers are accused of striking the secret deal instead of notifying the judge who oversaw the lawsuit that the messages had been obtained after the trial was completed in September of 2007 and jurors found in favor of the police officers.

The five also were accused of criminal wrongdoing for failing to notify authorities that the messages Stefani discovered made them aware of lies Kilpatrick and his former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty told on the witness stand to cover up their extra-marital affair. However, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy has declined to press criminal charges, choosing instead to await the outcome of the attorney grievance process.

In ADB testimony yesterday, Copeland said that he never saw the text messages until The Detroit Free Press published excerpts that established Kilpatrick and Beatty’s perjury.

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Stefani may face perjury charges over Kilpatrick messages

Michael Stefani, the lawyer who represented police officers in the whistle-blower lawsuit that exposed former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s lies under oath, may himself face perjury charges, reports The Detroit News.

More from The News:

Stefani admitted Thursday he gave copies of the infamous text messages to the Detroit Free Press, bringing to an abrupt halt the Attorney Discipline Board proceedings against the lawyer who represented the police officers who sued Kilpatrick. The revelation could bring more disciplinary charges against Stefani, who already faces punishment for his role in the scandal.

“His admission provides evidence that he provided false statements in two previous sets of testimony and may require investigation of perjury,” said Robert Edick, a lawyer acting as prosecutor in the state’s ethics case against Stefani.

The hearing already was aimed at deciding whether Stefani should be punished for violating a judge’s orders that the text messages be handed over to the judge first, and whether Stefani was obligated to tell the judge the messages indicated Kilpatrick and his then-chief of staff, Christine Beatty, lied under oath.

Blame it on Kwame

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.