Kilpatrick: I tried to beat up my lawyer

Robert Snell
The Detroit News

Detroit — Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick claimed in a court filing Thursday that he tried to assault his lawyer during an office fight on the eve of his landmark racketeering trial.

Defense lawyers denied Kilpatrick’s allegations about a heated disagreement inside his legal team’s office five years ago, a fight that Kilpatrick says included him chasing his lawyer around a conference room table.

Kilpatrick made the claim in a 38-page court filing to illustrate the broken relationship with his defense team, headed by lawyer James C. Thomas, in hopes of overturning his racketeering conviction and 28-year prison sentence. The attempt is based, in part, on claims that Thomas had a conflict of interest.

Tension between Kilpatrick — who is 6-feet-4-inches tall and weighed as much as 310 pounds before the trial — and his legal team culminated on Aug. 14, 2012, after the former Detroit mayor tried to fire Thomas.

“After leaving the court, (I) and trial counsel are involved in a heated quarrel with bad language, threats and counter-threats,” Kilpatrick wrote. “(I) move(d) to physically harm trial counsel. Trial counsel runs around the conference table in his office and threatens to call the police.”

“I’ll have you thrown in jail for the rest of the trial,” Kilpatrick claims his lawyer said.

Not true, Thomas told The Detroit News on Thursday.

“There is no question that is not true,” Thomas said in an interview. “I don’t remember that conversation that way.

“He never chased me around a table,” Thomas added. “I have never been chased around a table in my life.”

The alleged argument happened after Kilpatrick tried to dump his taxpayer-funded legal team and delay the corruption trial in summer 2012.

Kilpatrick failed to persuade U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds that his relationship with Thomas was broken.

The Aug. 14, 2012, hearing was filled with one-liners, insults and an odd analogy to a Thanksgiving turkey while trying to convince the judge that Thomas was the wrong lawyer for him.

“When my mother cuts the Thanksgiving turkey, she doesn’t open the drawer, close her eyes and pick a knife,” Kilpatrick told Edmunds. “You got to get a turkey knife for a turkey.”

At the time, Edmunds praised the attorney’s performance and chided Kilpatrick, a law-school graduate, on his legal acumen.

Prosecutors labeled Kilpatrick’s attempt to fire Thomas a stall tactic and said it lacked credibility, which drew agreement from legal experts.

The trial started on time the next month and ended with Kilpatrick in federal prison.

Kilpatrick has a history of violence.

In 2008, he was accused of assaulting a detective. Detective Brian White, a sheriff’s officer assigned to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, said Kilpatrick threw him off the porch of a home owned by Kilpatrick’s sister Ayanna.

The mayor shouted obscenities and racial remarks, White testified.

Kilpatrick, 47, is serving a 28-year sentence in an Oklahoma prison. His release date is August 2037.

Attorney John Shea defended Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard Kilpatrick, during the racketeering trial.

Shea does not remember anything about the alleged fight.

“I don’t remember hearing anything like that,” Shea said Thursday. “If I witnessed it, I would not forget it.”

rsnell@detroitnews.com

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Twitter: @robertsnellnews