Detroit contractor Bobby Ferguson pleaded guilty to assault with intent to do great bodily harm two years ago in what was widely reported as a pistol-whipping of one of his employees.
"During the course of an argument that I had with Mr. Kennedy Thomas on October 6th, 2004, I struck him with an object several times on the head, intending to do great bodily harm," Ferguson said at his plea hearing.
But now Ferguson, a pal of Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, has apparently changed his story, saying he didn't really attack Thomas, but was instead merely defending himself from Thomas (a claim he somehow failed to point out to police at the time of his arrest). And that object he used was actually an ashtray, not a gun. That's according to his sworn deposition in the civil suit Thomas filed against his former employer in 2005. Jury selection began Monday in Wayne County Circuit Judge Wendy Baxter's court.
"This is bullshit," says David Robinson, Thomas's attorney. "If the facts were what Bobby now claims were true, then why did he take the plea? He was under oath when he did so. If he takes the position under oath in the civil case that he was defending himself, that position is totally inconsistent with the position he took at the time he took the plea."
In 2004, Thomas worked for Ferguson Enterprises, a heavy equipment company with several contracts with the city of Detroit. According to the lawsuit, Ferguson called Thomas at home in October 2004 and asked him to return a company-owned camera to Ferguson's office. When Thomas arrived, Ferguson accused Thomas of calling Ferguson's wife, which Thomas denied.
Ferguson then struck Thomas on the back of the head several times with a 9 mm handgun, according to police reports. Thomas spent 12 days in the hospital and is "permanently disabled," says Robinson.
"He can't work," Robinson says. "He still has seizures. He's off balance. He walks with a cane for balance. He has continuing headaches. He's got vision problems."
Ferguson was charged with assault with intent to do great bodily harm and using a firearm during a felony. Under the terms of his deal, Ferguson served 10 months in the Wayne County Jail with work release and was put on probation for five years. The firearms charge was dropped.
Elbert Hatchett, Ferguson's attorney in the criminal matter, said Ferguson did act in self-defense but the plea was "the most appropriate thing to do."
Krystal Lyons, one of Ferguson's attorneys in the civil case, declined to discuss Ferguson's apparently new testimony.
But Peter Henning, professor of law at Wayne State University, said he was surprised Ferguson wouldn't have raised the self-defense issue in his criminal case if it had been viable. And raising it now could discredit him as a witness in the civil trial, he says.
"The problem is, of course, that he's contradicting himself. That certainly opens him up to a claim in front of a jury that he's not truthful, that he's trying to avoid liability. That could actually end up hurting him more than anything else," Henning says.News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]