Carmack fires attorneys in criminal case over land sale

Detroit businessman Robert Carmack fired the two attorneys representing him in a real estate fraud case Monday and asked for a delay in the preliminary examination.

Robert Carmack, left, makes a remark to Patrick McCombs, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, Genesee County, during his pre-trial hearing Monday at 36th District Court in Detroit.

During a hearing in 36th District Court, Carmack told Judge Deborah Lewis Langston he felt he would be in "better hands" with his two new lawyers, Neil Rockind and Steve Haney, than with the attorneys he dismissed, Mike Rataj and Paul Stablein.

Rataj told the judge there had been a "breakdown" in communications with Carmack and said after the brief hearing there were no hard feelings toward Carmack.

"We wish him only the best," said Rataj. "Sometimes there's just a breakdown in the relationship ... people are not on the same page. It doesn't change our opinion of Mr. Carmack. We still believe in his innocence."

Carmack said his defense will hinge on 14 years worth of records and testimony from 30 witnesses. His new court date is Feb. 11.

Carmack, 59, of Woodhaven, is accused of stealing a million-dollar parcel of property from the city. He was charged last month with one count of false pretenses with intent to defraud $100,000 or more, and three counts of uttering and publishing a document affecting real property tied to a decade-old land deal. 

The false pretenses charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison, according to state statute. Uttering and publishing carries a penalty of up to 14 years.

The case centers around the purchase of property on Melville Street on Detroit's southwest side. The city maintains that Carmack, who sold the property for $1 million, did not legally own the site.

Carmack been locked in a legal battle with Detroit and a public feud with Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. 

Carmack made headlines in November after airing private investigator footage of the mayor's comings and goings on a billboard truck outside City Hall. The footage, obtained by a private investigator hired by Carmack, showed the mayor visiting a condominium in Novi and separately showed a woman arriving there on other occasions.

Christine Ferretti contributed.