(WXYZ) - The former mayor and his lawyer both described a broken relationship in court Tuesday morning, but federal Judge Nancy Edmunds said the case will go forward with Jim Thomas at Kilpatrick's side.
Kilpatrick said over and over in court that he just doesn’t trust his lawyer anymore.
He even filed an affidavit with the court – saying he feels Jim Thomas was putting his interests in front of Kilpatrick’s.
Judge Edmunds aggressively questioned Kwame Kilpatrick Tuesday morning – to find out why the former mayor suddenly wants a new lawyer, just weeks before his corruption trial is set to begin.
Kilpatrick is charged with racketeering, bribery and extortion – accused of running a criminal enterprise out of the mayor’s office.
Kwame Kilpatrick told the judge that communication with his long-time lawyer has broken down so badly, most conversations end in screaming matches – and it’s all because Jim Thomas once represented Gasper Fiore .
7 Action News was the first to report this conflict of interest problem centered on a witness.
Thomas Tuesday admitted that he represented Fiore back in 2005 – but says no one predicted that the owner of Boulevard and Trumbull towing would become such an important government witness until grand jury testimony was just recently delivered to Kilpatrick’s defense team.
“Should I have seen it sooner? I mean in hindsight, I guess I could say, I could have seen it sooner, I would have loved to have brought it to the court’s attention before this, but it didn’t reach a critical phase until last week,” said Thomas.
Thomas represented Fiore regarding a donation that the city contractor made to the Allen Brothers Political Action Committee. According to the indictment, soon after Fiore gave the PAC $25,000 – the PAC donated the same amount of money to Kilpatrick’s re-election campaign.
The indictment also alleges Kilpatrick and co-defendant Bobby Ferguson tried to extort thousands of dollars from Fiore. Kilpatrick told the judge his whole defense theory involves going after people like Fiore on the stand – and he no longer believes Thomas can do that aggressively enough since Fiore used to be his client.
According to an affidavit Kilpatrick filed with the court, he says, “I was never told that the representation related to a federal investigation.”
The judge went after Kilpatrick, saying the first words out of your mouth in a recent meeting were “you love Mr. Thomas.”
Kilpatrick fired back with “I do love Mr. Thomas. I never said I trusted him.”
Federal prosecutors suggested this was just a delay tactic, but legal experts say Kilpatrick raised a legitimate issue.
“At the end of the day, the rules for professional conduct put no burden on the client. The burden is on the attorney, not on Kwame Kilpatrick,” said criminal defense lawyer Anthony Chambers.
Chambers also told 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo that the feds should have alerted the court about this problem too.
“They have a right to withhold materials up until the time a witness testifies. But in a case like this, where they know there’s a potential conflict of interest from the Grand Jury from some time ago, you have to wonder why they didn’t disclose this early on,” said Chambers.
In the end, the government dropped the counts involving Fiore, so the judge ruled there was no conflict, and the trial will go forward with Jim Thomas in charge of Kilpatrick’s destiny.
“I love the guy, I mean he’s just wonderful to be around, and I’m looking forward to being in trial,” said Thomas.
Legal experts say they fully expect this to become an issue for appeal if Kilpatrick is convicted.
READ KWAME KILPATRICK'S AFFIDAVIT TO THE COURT BELOW
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