A federal judge dismissed a civil lawsuit Tuesday that claimed the city of Detroit and ex-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a convicted felon, impeded a police investigation into the shooting death of a stripper.
U.S. District Judge Gerald Rosen said in his opinion that the attorney representing Tamara Greene's three children failed to prove the city or Kilpatrick interfered with the probe into her slaying.
Greene, who performed under the name Strawberry, was rumored to have danced in 2002 at a never-proven party at the mayor's official Manoogian Mansion residence. She was shot multiple times in April 2003 while sitting with a male acquaintance in a car outside her Detroit home. The man was wounded but survived.
Rosen agreed with lawyers for the city and Kilpatrick that there was "no evidentiary basis" for a legal finding that Kilpatrick obstructed or interfered with the investigation into the murder.
Kilpatrick resigned as mayor in 2008 after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice in state court. He served time in a county jail but later spent 14 months in state prison for violating his probation in the earlier case. He was paroled Aug. 2, but faces a federal corruption trial in 2012 on fraud, tax and racketeering conspiracy charges.
Rosen said lawyers for Greene's family seem to believe that Kilpatrick must have interfered with the murder investigation because he regularly meddled with top police brass when he was mayor. But the judge said past wrongs don't necessarily fit new cases.
Rosen said there is a "dearth of evidence" connecting Kilpatrick or any of his allies to any interference with the homicide investigation.
Kilpatrick repeatedly has denied interfering with Greene case and that there ever was a party.
"For what it is worth, it seems unlikely that it will ever be established with any degree of certainty whether this rumored party, or something like it, actually took place," Rosen wrote. "The witness accounts produced by plaintiffs lack specificity, rest to some extent on inadmissible hearsay, and contradict one another in various respects."
"On the other hand, it seems fairly well documented at this point that Defendant Kilpatrick kept an active social calendar during his days as mayor of Detroit. Nonetheless, whether this particular party occurred at this particular locale at this particular time is likely to remain an unsolved mystery."
The court gave the Greene family's attorney, Norman Yatooma, every opportunity to prove his case, said James Thomas, Kilpatrick's attorney.
"There was not one bit of evidence, after 41 depositions and tens of thousands of pages of discovery," Thomas said. "There clearly are no facts, and as a result, all these years of speculation, all these years of wondering now come to the culmination that ... the decision is there is no case.
"We're happy that, at least at this stage that it's over."
John Schapka, supervising assistant corporation counsel for the city, also said Yatooma lacked evidence to support his claim that Kilpatrick, his aides and others interfered with the Greene probe.
Yatooma, who was on vacation when Rosen released his ruling, said he already is working on an appeal.
"I'm shocked. I'm disappointed. I don't understand it," he said. "We weren't there asking the judge for a check. My young clients lost their mom. Let them go before a jury of other moms and dads and let them decide."
Associated Press writer Ed White in Detroit contributed to this report.