Conflict of interest hearing today in Kilpatrick case

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Will former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick need a new lead attorney in his federal corruption case?

That's a question a federal judge will have to answer at a hearing scheduled to take place Tuesday morning.

The judge announced last week that Kwame Kilpatrick has raised a possible conflict of interest that could prevent him from going forward with his current legal team.

And that means the judge could have some tough questions Tuesday for both Kilpatrick and his lawyer.

"I'm not withdrawing at this time, and I have no intention of withdrawing," Jim Thomas told reporters last week.

Kwame Kilpatrick's long-time lawyer has said publicly that he's committed to staying on Kilpatrick's case.  But first, a conflict of interest problem must be overcome.

7 Action News has learned the conflict involves someone who could be called as a witness in the Kilpatrick corruption trial. Sources say Thomas previously represented that witness.

"The last thing you want to do is have a lawyer find himself or herself in an impossible position between two clients, where to do something helpful to one client would arguable negatively impact negatively the other client," said 7 Action News Legal Analyst Tom Cranmer. Cranmer says judges and lawyers take potential conflicts very seriously.

"In a large investigation like this, it's not uncommon that a lawyer or law firm might have represented a witness who is part of the investigation, and then, who at least has the potential to be in conflict with their representation of someone who's actually been charged as a defendant in the case,"  Cranmer told 7 Action News Investigator Heather Catallo.

Kilpatrick, his father Bernard Kilpatrick, his friend Bobby Ferguson and former Detroit Water Department Chief Victor Mercado are all charged with racketeering, bribery and extortion. Their trial is supposed to start next month. 

"The one thing that the judge, and I think the lawyers, don't want to do is right at the very beginning of the case is create some issues that potentially are appellate issues – that are issues that either side might be able to raise as an error at a later point in time," said Cranmer.

The 7 Action News Investigators will be in court tomorrow and we will bring you all of the latest developments as they happen. We will be blogging live right here on wxyz.com

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