Lawyers testy in unsealed Tamara Greene suit
During the six years of legal battles after the death of exotic dancer Tamara Greene in federal court, tensions between parties often ran high.
How high got a little clearer late Monday when U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen unsealed hundreds of pages of deposition transcripts, affidavits and other documents.
Greene, 27, was killed in a drive-by shooting in 2003 -- about eight months after supposedly dancing at a rumored party at the mayoral Manoogian Mansion during former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's administration.
The newly unsealed documents depict lawyers on both sides firing personal shots during Kilpatrick's sworn testimony in August 2010.
After a testy back-and-forth, Kilpatrick lawyer Jim Thomas summed it up with: "Point your finger at me again, and I'm going to break it off and shove it up your (expletive)."
Norman Yatooma, representing Greene's family, responded: "Do that. Do that now, Mr. Thomas. Come here now, break off my finger and shove it up my (expletive)."
"Thank you for the invitation. Ask (Kilpatrick) a question," Thomas said.
Kilpatrick also exchanged barbs with Yatooma, but the unsealed depositions don't add much new information to what already has been reported.
The documents Rosen unsealed Monday are those that factored into his Nov. 1 decision to dismiss the Greene family's lawsuit against the city and Kilpatrick. Many of the documents -- including the depositions of former Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox, and Kilpatrick's wife, Carlita Kilpatrick, and his former aide Christine Beatty -- remain under wraps. Rosen said those documents didn't factor into his decision.
The documents unsealed Monday include depositions from several police officers who investigated the Manoogian party rumor and Greene's slaying.
Although many of the officers were disturbed by how the murder probe was handled, Rosen said there was no evidence that the case was derailed.
Sgt. Marian Stevenson, the homicide detective initially assigned to the investigation, testified that the case was taken away from her after six months and that she was transferred to the 9th Precinct -- what she described as the punishment precinct.
She said she heard rumors about other dancers who supposedly performed at the party.
"They were saying, 'Well, yeah, one went to Georgia and she got killed; one went to California, I think she's still alive, and they got Tammy,' " Stevenson said.
But none of the information ever panned out.
Former homicide Inspector William Rice, whom Greene's family hired to review the homicide file in 2010, said in a confidential report that the murder probe was reassigned to different investigators so often and there was so much meddling from higher-ups, the investigation lacked continuity and an investigation strategy.
Craig Schwartz, the former head of the major crimes division, said he first heard the rumors in 2004 when Al Bowman, a homicide lieutenant who said he was transferred because he continued to aggressively pursue the case, asked to meet with him.
At the meeting, Bowman, who was with two Michigan State Police officers, said he believed a cop from the mayor’s unit had killed a woman who had danced at the mansion. Schwartz pressed for more details and Bowman said .40-caliber shell casings were at the scene. One of the State Police officers added that another dancer had been killed after going to Georgia but couldn’t supply her name of other information.
Schwartz said he became increasingly angry to get called down to hear “information that was nothing. Had no basis in fact, had no substantiation and was based on speculation, and I was very disturbed by that.”
He had the case transferred because the “groundless statements without supporting information” called his judgment into question.
Schwartz sent the investigation to the Cold Case squad because he was unsettled by Bowman’s allegations and it could focus on it. Schwartz said there was no unusual pressure or interest from police brass or the mayor’s office in the case while he oversaw the homicide section.
Retired Michigan State Police Lt. Col. Robert Bartee, a member of the state police team that investigated allegations of wrongdoing by the mayor’s inner circle and the Manoogian party rumor, said Cox’s interview of Kwame Kilpatrick without police was an unprecedented and improper step. He also said Cox took swipes at the investigators’ experience and work.
Bartee said he’d never heard of such a public slap and that the his agency “went out of our way to avoid” giving disagreements the spotlight.
Former Deputy Police Chief Gary Brown testified in a deposition that he didn’t believe Kilpatrick meddled in the Greene homicide investigation. Kilpatrick fired Brown in 2003, a month after Greene was murdered, because Brown had begun investigating allegations that Kilpatrick’s friends on his security team were abusing overtime, driving while drunk in unmarked police vehicles and didn’t report accidents they were involved in.
Brown’s deposition included this exchange between he and Yatooma, the Greene family lawyer, who accused Kilpatrick of scuttling Greene’s murder probe.
“While on the subject of your beliefs, do you believe that Kwame Kilpatrick interfered with the murder investigation of Tammy Greene?” Yatooma asked.
“I don’t have any proof that he did,” Brown replied.
“Do you believe that he did?” Yatooma asked.
“I do not,” Brown said.
Former Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings said "I can't recall" in response to so many questions Yatooma asked in her 2010 deposition -- he asked if she had suffered a brain injury.
"Is there any reason that you think your memory has been so severely impacted such that you don't even recall whether you liked or disliked someone?" asked, referring to a question about whether she liked Gary Brown.
"I've had nothing to severely impact my memory," Bully-Cummings replied. "I just don't recall one way or the other as it pertains to Gary Brown. He's not a relevant person in my life."
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