Disgraced Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick Blasts his Ex-Attorney In Latest Strategy To Be Freed

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his attorney James Thomas make their way to federal court in Detroit in August 2012.
(Photo: Andre J. Jackson, Detroit Free Press)

One month after claiming he tried to beat up his lawyer, ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is taking another shot at his attorney.

And the blows are likely to continue given his latest strategy to get out of prison.

Now that Kilpatrick has lost all of his appeals, he is taking on the government, claiming it forced him to go to trial with a bad attorney whose shortcomings hurt him, in violation of his constitutional right to an effective lawyer.

For that strategy to work, Kilpatrick is going to have to dig up every negative experience he’s ever had with his lawyer, says former federal prosecutor Peter Henning.

“This is a take-the-kitchen-sink approach and throw in everything,” Henning said. “This is his one real opportunity to do that. … It’s his one shot.”

So if it seems like Kilpatrick has been dishing on his longtime attorney, James Thomas, a lot lately – it’s because he has to, Henning said.

“The burden is on him. It’s a civil suit – interestingly enough – and he is the plaintiff,” Henning said. “In essence, this puts Jim Thomas on trial.”

Henning, however,  believes that Kilpatrick’s ineffective-lawyer claim will be “very difficult” to win, “even harder than his appeal.”

Thomas, a high-profile defense attorney who represented Kilpatrick during the text message scandal and federal racketeering trial, was not available for comment. In the past, he has defended his commitment to Kilpatrick and has noted that he did ask to withdraw as his lawyer, but that U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds denied his request.

Kilpatrick, meanwhile, has long argued that he was wrongfully convicted of multiple corruption crimes, claiming prosecutors never proved he engaged in any criminal behavior or manipulated contracts that cost the city millions in losses.

[In March, former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade told the Free Press Kilpatrick could’ve had it a lot worse. Tap to read her candid interview.]

To date, Kilpatrick has lost all his appeals, and this year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear his case. But his appeals were based on what happened during trial and challenged his conviction.

Now, Kilpatrick is focusing on what happened outside trial, particularly with his lawyer, as he aims to convince the judge that Thomas wronged him before and during trial and should never have been allowed to represent him.

Last month, for example, Kilpatrick claimed in a court filing that he tried to beat up Thomas right before jury selection over a disagreement, but that Thomas ran around a conference table, threatened to call police and have him locked up for the duration of trial.

Thomas said no such incident took place.

Now, Kilpatrick is claiming in a new filing that Thomas refused to hire a Washington, D.C., attorney who he believes could have helped him prepare for trial. In a Tuesday filing, he wrote that Thomas allegedly told him, “ ‘Yeah, I spoke to that guy in D.C. He can’t help us. ‘ This was a lie.”

Kilpatrick is also claiming that Thomas performed poorly during trial and failed to vigorously defend him against bribery allegations and claims that he used the Kilpatrick Civic Fund for personal expenses and only reimbursed the fund because he was forced to do so.

During trial, prosecutors argued that Kilpatrick used the civic fund as a personal piggy bank, writing civic fund checks for everything from yoga lessons and luxury vacations to spy gadgets and golf clubs. The fund was supposed to help improve Detroit neighborhoods and educate voters. They also claimed that a subpoena forced Kilpatrick to reimburse the civic fund.

Kilpatrick argues there was no such subpoena, but jurors never heard that.

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SOURCE: Detroit Free Press – Tresa Baldas

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