Lawyer For Murdered Stripper's Son Subpoenas SkyTel For Text Messages - InformationWeek

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2/12/2008
04:20 PM
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Lawyer For Murdered Stripper's Son Subpoenas SkyTel For Text Messages

Just when it seemed panic in Detroit had reached a fervent pitch, there is another bizarre twist in the text-message scandal. A lawyer is trying to force SkyTel to hand over any text messages sent from city employee pagers, and their GPS coordinates, the morning that a stripper named Strawberry was murdered in Detroit.

Just when it seemed panic in Detroit had reached a fervent pitch, there is another bizarre twist in the text-message scandal. A lawyer is trying to force SkyTel to hand over any text messages sent from city employee pagers, and their GPS coordinates, the morning that a stripper named Strawberry was murdered in Detroit.The lawyer, Norman Yatooma, represents the 14-year-old son of Tamara Greene, who was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in the wee hours of April 30, 2003. The murder remains unsolved. Greene, whose exotic-dance stage name was Strawberry, was rumored to have performed at a party at the mayor's mansion several months before her murder, according to the Detroit Free Press, but Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and other city officials claim such a party never occurred.

In 2005, a Wayne County court awarded a former Detroit police officer $200,000, after he sued the city on the claim he was transferred out of the homicide department for investigating Greene's death. Yatooma represents Greene's son in a lawsuit against the city and police department, claiming they failed to thoroughly investigate Greene's death.

In recent days, Kilpatrick has become the center of an investigation and legal battles related to an $8.4 million whistle-blower settlement paid out by the city, after the Detroit Free Press released racy SkyTel text messages it had obtained (from an undisclosed source) between Kilpatrick and his former chief of staff, Christine Beatty.

It's unclear what Yatooma thinks the text messages will show, but take note of the timing of his request. I'm not a lawyer, but I know an important part of practicing law is establishing precedent, and striking while the iron is hot. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the whistle-blower suit regarding Kilpatrick subpoenaed SkyTel, and although the city reportedly spent years trying to block access to the messages, SkyTel eventually handed them over. That precedent could give Yatooma the upper hand in his subpoena, filed with the U.S. District Court in Detroit, to have Mississippi-based SkyTel hand over those text messages.

Precedent, precedent. Could the growing text messaging scandal in Detroit make it easier for anyone to subpoena SkyTel and other wireless service providers for messages and GPS coordinates as part of the discovery process for corporate lawsuits? It's an interesting subject, and one discussion IT and business managers might consider having with the company attorneys.

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