Judge shoots down Kilpatrick's plea to have lawyer tossed from case

Kilpatrick argued Fiore connection tainted lawyer

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Earlier today, 7 Action News Investigator blogged live from Federal Court as today's hearing on a potential conflict of interest took place.  Follow his blog below:

10:44AM--Court adjourned: We're done for now, thanks for joining us.

10:37AM--Edmunds "doesn't buy" Kilpatrick's arguments: Judge Edmunds continues to explain her ruling.  She says doesn't buy Kilpatrick's claim that suddenly, his four-year relationship with the lawyer he has used to represent him in every criminal matter of his life is broken beyond repair. 

"There is a high public interest in going forward," she said, reminding the lawyers that 400 witnesses have been called and have filled out questionnaires.

She will issue a written opinion later today or tomorrow.

10:34AM--Judge denies Kilpatrick's motion: Judge Edmunds says she is denying Kilpatrick's motion to have Thomas removed as his lawyer.  She said his arguments regarding Fiore and the Macomb Interceptor do not hold water, and any concerns over cross-examining Fiore in open court can be solved by having another defense lawyer handle them.

10:30AM--"I'm not afraid:" Kilpatrick says this argument is not a hail-mary effort to delay his criminal trial.

"I'm not afraid of this trial," he said, saying he's confident the government doesn't have a shred of evidence to convict him of any crimes.

"They have put on the witness list a plethora of people who are criminals, criminals," he said.

Kilpatrick himself is a felon, convicted of perjury in 2008.

10:24AM--Judge rips Kilpatrick: The former mayor is not scoring points with Judge Edmunds in his latest arguments before her.

Kilpatrick is trying to plead ignorance to the judge, saying he simply wasn't aware of Kilpatrick and Thomas's past history.

"If I was that good of a lawyer, I wouldn't have gone to jail for cheating on my wife," he said. 

Edmunds cut him off, saying again that he had signed a conflict-waiver form that acknowledged no conflict with Gasper Fiore more than a year ago.

"Any third year law student knows what that means," Edmunds said, reminding the former lawyer of his time in law school.  

10:20AM--Kilpatrick apologizes: It may be a little late, but Kwame Kilpatrick is now apologizing to the court for bringing this matter up at the last minute, and also asked for Judge Edmunds' forgiveness.

He said that he is skeptical of the government's desire to move the case along.

"I appreciate the government's help, but I don't want them to help me to death," Kilpatrick smirked. 

Kilpatrick does not have the greatest track record when it comes to asking judges for forgiveness.  In 2008, when he asked Judge Ronald Giles for forgiveness after violating his probation, he was put in jail for the night.

In 2010, when he asked Judge David Groner to forgive him over perceived restitution violations, he was later sent to prison. 

10:11AM--Last-minute ploy, says US Attorney: The US Attorney says that Kilpatrick can't expect the court to allow him to replace his lawyer on the eve of his criminal trial, saying that if it were that simple, criminal defendants would delay their trials routinely by claiming conflicts with their lawyers.

"He professed to love Mr. Thomas," Chutkow said.  Jim Thomas is making additional arguments now before the court.

10:06AM--Prosecution makes its case: With Kilpatrick's arguments now over, the US Attorney is making its case. Assistant US Attorney Mark Chutkow said that the government will not call Fiore as a witness, an attempt to nullify any potential conflict that Kilpatrick is worried about. 

Chutkow called Kilpatrick's argument "incoherent," saying it would make no sense for Kilpatrick's team to call Fiore as a defense witness if he is alleging that he was extorted.  He reminded the court that the former mayor signed a document saying he was aware of no conflicts with Fiore and other witnesses in January 2011. 

10:03AM--"Shouting" with attorneys: Kilpatrick says his relationship with Jim Thomas is broken down completely, saying that their discussions end in shouting matches. 

"You said you loved Mr. Thomas," Judge Edmunds told Kilpatrick, reminding him of a conversation they had earlier this month in her chambers. 

Kilpatrick said he did love Mr. Thomas, but no longer trusted him. 

9:56AM--Kilpatrick scolded: Judge Edmunds gave Kilpatrick a dressing-down, reminding him that he once had a law license, attended law school and "is not a lay person."  She said he should have known about the potential conflicts by reading his own indictments.  

9:52AM--Kilpatrick on hot seat: Kwame Kilpatrick is addressing Judge Edmunds about his desire to have Thomas removed as his lawyer.  He said that on August 2, he learned of the Fiore issue but said Thomas told me "we've already talked" and that someone

else would cross-examine Fiore.  "We," Kilpatrick later learned, was Thomas and the US Attorney's office.

Thomas said he was blindsided by the news and said he didn't agree with Thomas's strategy, saying he "didn't think it would be beneficial to my defense." 

"I think there are relationships that need to be exposed there at the trial that will absolve me of any guilt," Kilpatrick said, stressing that he needs a lawyer who can be as aggressive as possible with cross-examination. 

9:50AM--Thomas raises another possible conflict: Thomas announced a second possible conflict that, stating that his firm represents a client who is suing Kilpatrick: the Macomb Interceptor Drainage District. 

9:45AM--Prosecution says they won't call Fiore as witness: Judge Edmunds disclosed that the government says they now have no intentions to call Gasper Fiore as a witness, perhaps an attempt to blunt any effort to delay the start of the Kilpatrick trial.  Edmunds said that since only the defense team will call Fiore as a witness, it's up to them to pick another lawyer to question him under oath. 

9:41AM--Fiore says he was extorted:  Thomas just disclosed that Grand Jury testimony he became aware of last week is indicated that he was forced to make payments to Kwame Kilpatrick's campaign: a total reversal of what he had said before, Thomas disclosed.  He says Kilpatrick does not want him to represent him any further.

Fiore owns Boulevard and Trumbull Towing, and is the "towing contractor" listed in the 46-count indictment charging Kilpatrick with racketeering, bribery, extortion, and tax fraud.

According to the indictment, Kilpatrick and co-defendant Bobby Ferguson allegedly extorted Fiore by getting more than $90,000 from him, including campaign funds and other cash.

Fiore could testify as a witness in the Kilpatrick corruption trial.  Legal experts say Thomas' previous representation of a witness Fiore is potentially a major problem for the case.

9:35AM--Conflict is with Gasper Fiore: Kilpatrick attorney James Thomas indicated to Judge Edmonds that the conflict in this case arises from his past representation of controversial city tower Gasper Fiore.  Thomas says he represented Fiore until 2007, years before Kilpatrick was ever indicted. 

9:15AM--Sparsely filled courtroom:  Though we're only 15 minutes away from the start of a highly-anticipated hearing, there is plenty of room inside Judge Nancy Edmund's courtroom, with only a couple of reporters sitting in the courtroom benches.  Space will likely become a rare commodity soon, though, once we get underway. 

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A federal judge today could determine whether a conflict exists involving Kwame Kilpatrick's legal team.  Her decision, could delay the most anticipated criminal trial in Detroit history, which has been in the works for almost two-years. 

Judge Nancy Edmunds announced last week that Kilpatrick mentioned a possible conflict with his legal counsel. 
 
Kilpatrick and three others; his father Bernard Kilpatrick, city contractor and friend Bobby Ferguson and former water department boss Victor Mercardo, are charged with running a criminal enterprise inside of city hall that shook down vendors for cash and gifts.  
 
Judge Edmunds is anticipated to have some tough questions for both Kilpatrick and his lawyer, Jim Thomas, at this morning's hearing.

 

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

 

7 Action News learned the conflict involves a potential witness in the Kilpatrick corruption trial. Sources say Thomas previously represented that witness.

 

Investigator Ross Jones will be blogging live from court when the hearing begins at 9:30 a.m.  Stay with WXYZ.com for the latest in this developing story. 
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