Five Lawyers Charged Over Settlement of Case Involving Former Detroit Mayor

10_62_kwamekilpatrick_320There have been rare professional charges filed against five lawyers for their role in crafting a secret settlement for former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. The lawyers were involved in a $8.4-million lawsuit settlement to conceal text messages that showed that the major and his top female aide had lied about their affair. The lawyers are chief assistant corporation counsel Valerie Colbert-Osamuede; her ex-boss, former city corporation counsel John E. Johnson; city-retained private lawyers Samuel McCargo and Wilson Copeland II, and Mike Stefani, who represented three cops in lawsuits against the city.

The Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission has conducted a 14-month investigation into the allegations. The most interesting is Stefani, who is accused of agreeing to “conceal irrefutable evidence of Kilpatrick’s perjury in return for” the $8.4-million lawsuit settlement for his police clients. Usually, it is the lawyers accused of concealing perjury for their own client that are most at risk. Here, however, the bar is saying that even if you are the opposing lawyer, you are a party to the covered up if you accept a settlement on behalf of your clients. That may come as a bit of a surprise to many lawyers who would have viewed the interests of their client as favoring a settlement and remaining silent on such issues.

The lawyers appear to have reached the $8.4 million settlement deal in October 2007, almost immediately after city lawyers learned that Stefani had discovered incriminating text messages. Many attorneys would have viewed that time as perfect to seek a settlement for their client but the bar views Stefani has involved in the cover-up by agreeing to drop the case for money.

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11 thoughts on “Five Lawyers Charged Over Settlement of Case Involving Former Detroit Mayor

  1. I guess the Plaintiff’s attorney was kinda hit for extortion, failure to communicate, and duty to report another attorney.

  2. AY, you’re right. It was extortion. In addition, plaintiffs’ counsel obtained the emails in violation of an outstanding protective order.

  3. Look this is not criminal extortion, and I suspect this ethics complaint is going nowhere. In settlement negotiations, we have compromising information all the time that is bantered about in the hopes of winning a settlement. The lawyer is not the judge, and cannot determine guilt or innocence. He may realize the evidence is fraught with criminal implications, but burdening us to serve as lawyer and cop is beyond the pale. Sorry but my client’s interests come first and disclosing possible criminal conduct by the other side to the detriment of my client violates my ethics.

  4. mespo, I believe it was a form of civil extortion, the implied threat of criminal prosecution to achieve an advantage in the civil action. The plaintiff’s attorney had previously attempted to subpoena the documents. In response to an objection, the court had ruled that the emails could only be produced to the court. Plaintiff’s counsel then issued additional subpoenas for the same information, but without informing the court or opposing counsel.

  5. Mike Appleton:

    “mespo, I believe it was a form of civil extortion”


    I like to call it lawful coercion. Here in Richmond we had a lawyer brought up on criminal charges that he engaged in extortion by threatening to tell the IRS that an adverse litigant had failed to pay taxes on some income. He settled the case and inexplicably the other side notified the Commonwealth Attorney. The case was tried to a jury and after rounds of expert testimony the jury came back in less than 30 minutes with an acquittal. The jury foreperson was quoted as saying, “We all thought that’s what lawyers are supposed to do” for their clients. Smart man the foreperson.

  6. mespo, I’ve dealt with similar situations in civil theft cases. In Florida the remedies include treble damages. I usually recommend against the filing of criminal complaints because that will almost certainly foreclose the possibility of any meaningful recovery. I’d much rather negotiate payment terms than deal with the alternative, a defendant who is either in jail or on probation with a restitution order of $100.00 a month forever.

  7. It’s so nice to hear that the legal system wanted effectively to protect a perjurer from the practical consequences of his actions.

  8. Tom,
    I don’t see why that is a surprise to you. After all, so far the legal system has protected a bunch of murderers, criminals, traitors and war profiteers, who led the last administration for eight years. Oh yes, lest I forget, these criminals were assisted by the votes of many of our fellow citizens, who in doing so, showed they hated America. now isn’t that awful that so many people could support such evil?

  9. Spindell spins a misleading and cruel yarn. Perhaps a traitor or one who deep down really hates the America we have know is someone who tries to trash capitalism, nationalize vast manufacturing, health and financial institutions, states we are not a Christian nation but are a Muslim nation, apologizes all over the globe for America’s behavior despite the hundreds of thousands of brave American soldiers buried in foreign fields in support of freedom (what’s why most of us speak English instead of German, Japanese or Arabic), promises to gut our military and surrender sovereignty to unelected international entities. Lets keep this about law, not politics.

  10. U. Ara Ripoff,
    I suspect before you call someone a traitor you get a handle on some of the terms you throw around.

    “Lets keep this about law, not politics.”

    What law makes America Capitalist?
    What law makes America Christian?

    riddle me that, Batman.

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