The Work

March 11, 2009 4:06 PM

Kwame Kilpatrick Sues the Text Messages that Landed Him in Jail

Posted by Brian Baxter

Last month we reported that former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick had stepped into the arms of renowned plaintiffs lawyer Willie Gary after spending 99 days in jail for his role in a text messaging scandal.

Gary previously told sibling publication The National Law Journal that he wasn't looking to sue anyone.

"We just want to make sure--from A to Z--that the [appropriate] steps were followed...and the process was not violated," Gary told the NLJ.

But as we've noted before, if there's one thing Willie Gary does--and does quite well, we might add--it's file suits. (Note: If you've never read Jonathan Harr's superb 1999 profile of Willie Gary in The New Yorker, we suggest you do so. A movie based on the story currently is in development.)

The Am Law Litigation Daily's David Bario notes that the Wings of Justice II are on the move as Gary announced a $100 million civil suit against SkyTel, a Clinton, Miss.-based telecommunications company. The litigator is accusing the company of violating privacy laws after releasing Kilpatrick's text messages (the company was subpoenad in a 2007 police whistle-blower trial).

According to the NLJ, the suit claims that the disclosure of text messages in civil litigation is prohibited under the Stored Communications Act. SkyTel had contracted with the City of Detroit to provide communications services and several of the text messages at issue show Kilpatrick lying about an affair with an adviser as well as the ex-mayor's role in the 2007 whistle-blower case.

After those messages were published in the Detroit Free Press, prosecutors used them to secure a guilty plea by Kilpatrick to two felony obstruction of justice charges. (On Monday a Michigan judge ruled that the rest of the batch of messages could be released to the press.)

Kilpatrick's legal team in the civil suit is being lead by Gary's partner Tricia "C.K." Hoffler at their Stuart, Fla.-based firm Gary, Williams, Finney, Lewis, Watson & Sperando. Hoffler didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Thomas Plunkett of Detroit's Williams Williams Rattner & Plunkett has represented SkyTel in previous litigation, reports The Lit Daily's Bario. Plunkett also did not respond to a request for comment.

But Gary, as he loves to do, was talking.

"My client's constitutional rights have been violated in the worst of ways, and we are merely seeking justice," he told the NLJ. "We aren't asking for any favoritism, we just want justice."

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