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Mysterious conflict of interest between Kilpatrick, his lawyer

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Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (middle) arrives at federal court in Detroit Wednesday. Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (middle) arrives at federal court in Detroit Wednesday.
Bernard Kilpatrick arrives at a Detroit federal courthouse Wednesday. Bernard Kilpatrick arrives at a Detroit federal courthouse Wednesday.
Bobby Ferguson (middle) arrives at a Detroit federal courthouse Wednesday. Bobby Ferguson (middle) arrives at a Detroit federal courthouse Wednesday.
DETROIT (WJBK) -

The public corruption case against Kwame Kilpatrick is about to take center stage, but as 400 potential jurors filed into federal court to fill out questionnaires, Kilpatrick and his attorney dropped a bit of a bombshell -- a conflict of interest between him and his longtime lawyer Jim Thomas.

Thomas, however, says he is still on the case.

"I don't think there's any chance that I'm not going to be doing this trial.  We have really, really agonized over the trial date and the preparation for this case.  It may turn out that there is going to have to be an issue addressed, and when it is, I think that that will be more clear."

Thomas refused to discuss the conflict of interest.  The judge set a hearing for Tuesday, but Fox 2 legal analyst Charlie Langton questions the timing.  Do to the mountains of evidence, the defense attorneys have tried to have the case delayed in the past.

"This could be a delay tactic," he said.  "There's a lot of evidence to go through, and by creating this conflict of interest, the conflict meaning he didn't have enough time to prepare, and that might be legit to allow him more time to prepare."

But Thomas says he's prepared and this conflict will only delay when attorneys get to see the jury questionnaires.

Potential jurors spent the day filling out the 25 page questionnaires.  80 people will be chosen for actual questioning to select 18 people to serve as the jury and alternates for what is expected to be a four month trial.

It's a huge case.  Kilpatrick, his father, Bernard, his best friend Bobby Ferguson and the former head of the Detroit Water Department, Victor Mercado, are accused of conspiracy, extortion and fraud.

"We're looking for people that can be fair and impartial and can set aside the five or six years of negative publicity that some of these defendants have had and judge the case on the evidence," said Mike Rataj, Ferguson's attorney.

We asked him if he thinks that is possible.

"I don't know.  If I had my crystal ball out, okay, then maybe I could give you an answer, but I don't know."

Also not known, the mysterious conflict on interest that suddenly exists between Kwame Kilpatrick and his attorney.

"Are you withdrawing from the case or thinking about it," Langton asked Thomas.

"I am not withdrawing at this time, and I have no intention of withdrawing.  My name is Jim Thomas.  I am not other lawyers that you might know."

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