DETROIT (AP) - The City of Detroit destroyed potential email evidence that was ordered preserved in a lawsuit filed by the family of an exotic dancer whose killing is unsolved, a federal magistrate said.
U.S. Magistrate Judge R. Steven Whalen issued the findings Wednesday related to the lawsuit from Tamara Greene's family. Whalen said if the case goes to trial a jury should be told the city "intentionally, willfully and recklessly" destroyed potential evidence.
An email seeking comment was sent Thursday by The Associated Press to city attorney John Schapka.
Whalen also recommended that another judge overseeing the case order the city and John Johnson, the city's former Law Department director, to reimburse Norman Yatooma, the Greene family's lawyer, for fees related to the court dispute about the missing email.
Johnson described Whalen's findings as "outrageous" and said the magistrate "contorted facts to substantiate his conclusions."
"He makes several leaps to get where he wants," Johnson told the Detroit Free Press.
Yatooma called Whalen's findings "the single most significant occurrence in this case to date."
"This ruling is epic," he told The Detroit News.
Whalen said there is no doubt that the city allowed email to be purged even after the suit was filed in 2005 and after an evidence preservation order was issued by U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Rosen in 2008. Whalen, however, also questioned the potential value of the email to the case.
The civil suit claims city and police officials stymied an investigation into the 2003 shooting death of Greene, 27. She was rumored to have performed at a never-proven 2002 party at the city's mayoral mansion at the time Kwame Kilpatrick was Detroit's mayor.
The city and Kilpatrick have denied the claims.
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