Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ferguson case lawyers accused of conflict of interest

Indicted city contractor Bobby Ferguson, a close friend of former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, could wait much longer to stand trial in a $12 million bid-rigging case if a judge finds two lawyers involved have conflicts of interest.

A federal prosecutor is expected to file a motion today to resolve possible conflict of interest issues involving Ferguson lawyer Gerald Evelyn and Anthony Chambers, who represents an executive at one of Ferguson's companies.

The pending motion was disclosed during a routine hearing in U.S. District Court today. Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce Judge had not filed the motion yet and the nature of the potential conflicts was unclear today.

Chambers said a potential conflict involves his prior representation of a Ferguson company named in the indictment, Xcel Construction. Chambers currently represents Michael Woodhouse, the company's president.

Evelyn said replacing two lawyers involved in a complex bid-rigging case could significantly delay the Aug. 23 trial date.

"It would be like starting all over again," Evelyn told The Detroit News.

Also today, a notice was filed in federal court indicating a former Xcel employee charged in the case is expected to plead guilty Thursday. The employee, Tabitha Goodner, is set to enter a plea at 11 a.m. Thursday before U.S. District Judge David Lawson.

She was charged last week with misprision of a felony when she gave misleading and incomplete statements to federal investigators in July 2009. She gave the statements despite knowing others had committed mail fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud, according to federal court record made public Friday. The Ferguson case already was facing a possible delay.

Evelyn and other attorneys involved have asked for more time to prepare and review evidence turned over by federal prosecutors.

The defense lawyers asked to delay the Aug. 23 trial date, plea deadline and other key dates by 84 days.

Federal prosecutors do not need more time, according to the filing. Lawson today said he would not commit to rescheduling the trial date until he sees motions filed in the case.

Ferguson is accused of falsifying bids, illegally laundering proceeds and dumping demolition debris in connection with the $12 million Garden View Estates public housing development.

The government has provided about 100,000 pages of documents so far, including 5,482 pages of grand jury exhibits and about 1,200 pages of search warrant affidavits and other documents.

Also named in the indictment are three executives at companies owned by Ferguson: Shakib Deria of Troy, an employee of Ferguson Enterprises and vice president of A&F Environmental/Johnson Construction Services; Woodhouse of West Bloomfield Township; and Calvin L. Hall of Detroit, vice president of Xcel Construction.

Separately, Ferguson was indicted in December along with Kilpatrick and three others in a racketeering scheme involving a series of deals to extort millions of dollars through Detroit Water and Sewerage Department contracts funded with taxpayer dollars.

That case is set for trial in fall 2012.

By Robert Snell, The Detroit News, rsnell@detnews.com, (313) 222-2028

Source: The Detroit News

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