DETROIT — Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, accused of obstructing the police investigation into the death of a stripper, testified Monday that the 2003 fatal shooting was never discussed among high-ranking officials in his administration.
Kilpatrick was in court to answer questions about what may have happened to his e-mail in 2002 and 2003. After more than two hours of testimony, he offered his firmest public denial yet of any role in stifling the investigation.
“Unequivocally, we never discussed Tamara Greene. It had absolutely nothing to do with us,” Kilpatrick said in response to friendly questioning by a city attorney.
Greene’s family is suing him and the city, claiming Kilpatrick squelched the investigation into her unsolved fatal shooting because she danced for him at a party months earlier in 2002. He denies it and insists there was no party. After six years of litigation, he called the lawsuit “frivolous” on Monday.
Kilpatrick, 40, was transported to federal court from a prison where he’s being held for violating probation in a criminal case. He’s also awaiting trial on separate tax and fraud charges.
Kilpatrick spent much of his time in the witness chair jousting with Greene family attorney Norman Yatooma. He said Greene’s death was never a subject of any incoming or outgoing e-mail.
Kilpatrick said he’s not tech-savvy and would not know how to purge e-mails from the city’s server, countering suggestions that he may have deliberately deleted evidence. He said he had three computers when he was mayor, from 2002 to fall 2008, but typically used only his City Hall computer.
“Unfortunately I’m not a computer guy. I rarely did computer work at all at home,” Kilpatrick said.
He said mail in his inbox ranged from “`Happy birthday’ to `We need to cut grass at X park,’ and everything in between.”
Kilpatrick said city officials knew that text messages, not e-mail, were the way to get his attention. Indeed, sexually explicit messages with his chief of staff led to his ouster from City Hall.
As he questioned Kilpatrick, Yatooma was repeatedly reined in by U.S. Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen, who stopped him from asking about a confidential FBI report and limited the inquiry to e-mail from 2002 and 2003.
“What you’re doing with your questioning, you’re testifying. … I don’t want speeches,” Whalen told Yatooma at one point.
The city and Kilpatrick are asking that the Greene family’s lawsuit be dismissed. No one has been charged in Greene’s death, but the city has said her killer is in prison in an unrelated case.