Legal Ethics

Sex, Lies and Text Messages: Mich. Judge Makes Legal Memo Public

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Seldom has a legal memorandum apparently been read with such interest by so many.

Reportedly retrieved by a forensic expert from the computer of Mike Stefani, a plaintiffs lawyer in Detroit police whistle-blower cases, an 18-page legal memorandum that allegedly led immediately to a controversial $8.4 million settlement by the city is a hot document because of the steamy text messages it contains. Made public yesterday by a Michigan judge, the memo contains transcripts of text messages that seemingly confirm not only a torrid affair between Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his then-chief of staff, Christine Beatty, but may help prove that they lied in the whistle-blower cases, the Associated Press reports.

Released by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Robert Colombo Jr. after both the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News sued, the memo is the latest development in an ongoing scandal revolving around the $8.4 million settlement. As part of the flap, many have questioned the role played by lawyers on all sides in negotiating a settlement that the city council apparently approved without ever having been told about the text messages.

Reports the New York Times: “The messages ‘show unequivocally that both Ms. Beatty and Mayor Kilpatrick perjured themselves during depositions and at trial,’ Mr. Stefani wrote in the brief, which was recovered from his computer on Monday, months after he deleted it as a condition of the settlement with the city.”

However, James Thomas, a lawyer representing the mayor, said in a statement Monday that “the notion that this memo determined the course of the settlement in the whistle-blower case is patently false,” the Times states. Further, Thomas contends, the text messages were obtained illegally and have not been verified as authentic.

“All the lawyers have testified that this had nothing to do with the settlement.” Kilpatrick said after a community forum last night, according to AP. “It seems that it’s just a regurgitation of old news. And it’s unfortunate that now we’re printing something as true that came off somebody’s computer.”

Related coverage:

Detroit News: “Kilpatrick’s memo set policy: Electronic messages are public”

Associated Press: “Excerpts from text messages between Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and then-Chief of Staff Christine Beatty” “Hot Doc Found at Law Firm in $8.4M Detroit Settlement Flap” “Detroit Mayor Charged in Litigation-Related Sex Scandal”

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