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Detroit — Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is seeking to disqualify a U.S. district judge, saying she had a conflict of interest, after she refused to set aside his 28-year prison sentence she issued in 2013.

The motion filed Tuesday claims that U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds had a personal and professional relationship with his former lawyer, James Thomas, which prevented him from receiving a fair trial.

"Judge Edmunds was fully aware of the various conflicts of interest of trial counsel prior to the trial," the motion states.

Kilpatrick, 48, previously has argued that the prison sentence should be vacated for a variety of reasons, including incorrect jury instructions, impermissible hearsay and because his defense lawyer had a conflict of interest.

The filing states Kilpatrick's attorneys  learned about the conflict of interest while reading through grand jury transcripts on Aug. 5, 2012.

"When James Thomas walked into Judge Edmunds' chambers, the judge was already seated at the head of the large conference table," according to the motion. "He stopped, leaned over to the judge and said, 'Thank you for the lovely card for my wedding judge. My wife and I truly loved it." 

The filing alleges that Edmunds allowed the conflict of interest issues to "infect" the entire trial process.

"The judge made special provisions that she called a 'solution' or a 'cure' for trial counsel to remain silent regarding the most serious issues at trial," according to the motion. "Edmunds refused to investigate or inquire into whether the conflict of interests could deter trial counsel from intense probing of the witness on cross-examination."

Kilpatrick also filed a motion for reconsideration of Edmunds' March 19 order, hoping for a retrial to vacate the sentence to correct "a palpable, unmistakeable manifest and plain defect."

"The court will review the matter," said David Ashenfelter, spokesman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

The appeal was viewed by legal experts as Kilpatrick's last shot at convincing a judge to erase the 28-year federal prison sentence that tied with the longest such corruption sentence in U.S. history for former Cuyahoga County (Ohio) Commissioner Jimmy Dimora.

Kilpatrick was convicted of running a criminal enterprise out of City Hall that included steering rigged water and sewer contracts to buddy Bobby Ferguson.

The motion filed Thursday follows failed attempts by Kilpatrick to have his conviction overturned by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals or have his case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

srahal@detroitnews.com
Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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