Consultant threatens city with suit in profiling flap

George Hunter
The Detroit News

An African-American political consultant who claimed last year he was racially profiled by a black Detroit cop is threatening to file a defamation lawsuit if the city doesn’t agree to a settlement that includes money and a public retraction by the city’s police chief.

The attorney for Adolph Mongo sent a letter dated July 1 to the city’s Law Department asking for $175,000 — and for Chief James Craig to recant statements he made to the media last year about Mongo, who crafted political strategy for clients that included former Detroit mayors Coleman Young and Kwame Kilpatrick.

If Mongo’s terms aren’t met, the letter said he will sue the city, Police Department and Craig.

In the letter, which was copied to the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners, Mongo gave the city until July 8 to respond. On Friday, a day after the deadline, Craig and the city’s Corporation Counsel Melvin “Butch” Hollowell said they hadn’t seen the letter and declined further comment.

Craig spoke about the incident last year when he defended how Officer Juan Windham handled the volatile Aug. 15, 2015, traffic stop. In doing so, Mongo’s attorney claims the chief slandered his client.

Detroit police dashboard video of the incident shows Mongo’s Ford Mustang coast through a red light on Jefferson near Interstate 75, just east of downtown. Windham taps his siren. Mongo pulls over.

Days later, Mongo wrote a column on the website Deadline Detroit describing the traffic stop. In the article, titled, “Mongo: Being Black and Treated Like A Thug at a Detroit Traffic Stop,” the political consultant claimed he’d been targeted and harassed by Windham because he was an African-American driving a new sports car.

“Downtown, it seems, has become a playground for young white professionals and it has become clear that blacks of any socioeconomic status are not welcome,” Mongo wrote.

Three days after Mongo’s column ran, Craig released to the media Windham’s dash-cam video showing Mongo cussing at the officer and repeatedly insisting he wanted to be taken to jail, as Windham tells him he’s free to leave.

Craig told reporters Windham had shown restraint, and said he would have arrested Mongo if he had conducted the traffic stop.

“I would not have put up with that,” Craig said at an Aug. 10, 2015 news conference at Public Safety Headquarters. “To be berated, to have profanity directed in the manner in which it was, that ... in my judgment constitutes disorderly conduct.

“In this case, we have video, we have audio that supports what really took place,” Craig said. “And to frame it around this whole notion of police officer contacts with African-Americans is wrong.”

Mongo’s attorney and cousin Leonard Mungo told The Detroit News on Friday more than 20 minutes of audio are missing from the dash-cam video because of what police said was a technical glitch. Mungo claims Windham made derogatory, racially charged comments while the sound wasn’t being recorded.

In addition to the monetary settlement, Mongo wants the chief to retract his statements at the news conference — “and he needs to do it in front of all the media, just the way he did when he accused my client of disorderly conduct and driving without a license and insurance,” Mungo said. “Those are crimes; you can’t just accuse someone of a crime without any basis.”

Mungo explained he sent the letter because a plaintiff must first make an offer to settle a case before filing a lawsuit.

“If we file a suit, we’ll be asking for a lot more than $175,000,” he said.

Mungo said the incident has hurt his client’s career prospects.

“Craig said (Mongo) had no license, bad insurance, disorderly conduct. My client has gotten a whole number of judges elected, and he’s driving lawlessly? He’s out being disorderly?

“What judge would hire him to do their campaign after that? This is a serious matter, and in my opinion, a real knock on his reputation.”

‘Take me in’

Mungo, who spells his last name slightly differently than his political consultant cousin, wrote in his letter Craig couldn’t have known what Windham said when the audio wasn’t recorded.

“Officer Windham made accusatory remarks insinuating that Mr. Mongo had acquired his brand new Mustang by theft. Despite this obvious racial stereotyping of Mr. Mongo, Mr. Mongo maintained his composure, remained in his vehicle and complied with Officer Windham’s instructions,” Mungo wrote.

When the audible portion of the video begins, Mongo and Windham are out of the camera’s visual range, although their conversation is recorded.

Windham explains there’s a warrant out of Flint for a man named Adolph Mongo who has different date of birth.

The officer also says says there’s no record in his computer system showing Mongo had insurance for the Mustang.

“I just bought this car last week,” Mongo says.

“That’s probably why it’s not in the system,” Windham replies.

“But you got me for a warrant, right?”

“No ... because you blew the red light,” Windham says. “That’s why I stopped you.”

“You need to take me in.”

“I’m not taking you for a warrant; I said I stopped you for the red light.”

Mongo repeatedly tells Windham to take him to jail. “You’re free to go, sir,” the officer replies.

Windham tells Mongo he doesn’t have a valid driver’s license or insurance. Mongo insists he has a driver’s license; “I just don’t have it on me.” Mongo’s wife later shows up with his wallet containing the license.

Tow truck arrives

Toward the end of the video, a City Wide Towing truck arrives. As the driver hooks up the Mustang, Mongo begins insulting Windham:

“You’re an (expletive).”

“If you keep cussing in out public, I’m gonna have to lock you up,” Windham warns. “If you keep being disorderly, you’re going to get locked up. I’m trying to be nice to you, sir. You are free to go.”

Mongo repeats: “You’re a real (expletive).”

“If you keep talking, I’m going to lock you up.”

“Well, then, lock me up.”

The wrangling eventually dies down, Mongo gets information about where to pick up his car, and the video ends with the dashboard camera trained on the Mustang atop the flatbed tow truck.

The city later rescinded the citations for invalid insurance and driver’s license. Mungo said there would’ve been no reason for police to tow his client’s car if the mistake hadn’t been made.

“Mr. Mongo maintained his composure until Officer Windham made the decision to tow his vehicle,” Mungo wrote. “This decision, it was later learned, was based on information that was not true.”

Mongo fought the ticket for running the red light. Nearly three months after the traffic stop, the infraction was reduced to impeding traffic. According to 36th District Court records, on Nov. 2, 2015, Mongo paid a $200 fine and the case was closed.

ghunter@detroitnews.com

Video of the traffic stop:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i98IB0vE9cw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1d7WkSbbGLo

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8cojtkeSQRA