On Thursday morning, January 12, Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards sent billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner, Manuel "Matty" Moroun to jail for failing to comply with the judge's order to finish a project that will connect the bridge to nearby expressways.
Dan Stamper, the president of the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC), has been ordered to jail as well. The Detroit International Bridge Company owns the Ambassador Bridge.
This post was updated as the story developed.
Update 6:00 p.m.
The Michigan Court of Appeals has freed Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun and his top aide, Dan Stamper from the Wayne County jail, as Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports. The court will hear an appeal on Judge Edwards' decision on February 2.
The son of 84 year-old Manuel "Matty" Moroun, Matthew T. Moroun, released a statement to the Detroit Free Press about his father's jailing:
"Without a trial, without a jury, with no notice stating the reasons for them to appear, a judge viciously lashed out at Matty Moroun and Dan Stamper today and ordered a penalty outside the bounds of a civil case that was excessive, unwarranted and outrageous.
“This is the same judge that refused repeated requests for site visits to actually see construction on the Gateway Project. This entire legal process has clearly become a personal vendetta by the judge against these individuals.”
On FOX 2 Detroit last night, Matthew T. Moroun indicated that he thinks Judge Edwards has a personal vendetta against his father.
"As you know, the Judge's son was recently appointed by the Governor the day before Thanksgiving to a $150,000 a year judgeship job at 36th District Court," said Moroun.
Governor Snyder strongly supports the construction of a second international bridge crossing over the Detroit River - something the Moroun family has been actively fighting with a multi-million dollar ad blitz.
The plan for a second bridge was defeated in the Michigan legislature late last year.
"When we defeated the governor's plan in the legislature, the judges's son was appointed less than one month later. And my Dad was thrown in jail less than two months after that," said Moroun.
Very little was discussed about the details of the Judge's orders to the Moroun family on the program.
To get a better idea of what the issue is, the Detroit Free Press offers this graphic showing how the Moroun family did not build the Gateway Project according to agreed upon plans.
Moroun and Stamper spent the night in the Wayne County jail. The Detroit Free Press reports that the billionaire and his executive wore green prison garb and were held in a cell which offered little privacy:
Just like other inmates, the two were offered chicken-fried steak for dinner. Their mug shots were taken, and the two shared a 10-by-15-foot cell in an isolated wing.
Lawyers for the two jailed Ambassador Bridge executives have been trying to win their release at the Michigan Appeals Court.
In their "Emergency Motion for Immediate Consideration," lawyers for Moroun and Stamper say their release is "imperitive":
"The incarceration of Mr. Moroun and Mr. Stamper violates federal and state constitutional rights to due process, and conflicts with the well-established procedures set-out by statute (MCL 600.1711(2) and MCL 600.1715) court rule (MCR 3.606) for finding and punishing contempt."
In his piece today, Jeff Watrick of MLive writes that Moroun's legacy may now be an eroding of trust in public-private partnerships:
Right now, private ownership apparently means a multi-year legal battle is required to ensure bridge-to-freeway connections are built.
It’s increasingly hard to argue this “private-sector solution” for North America’s busiest commercial border crossing remains viable. And that, more than anything else, may be Matty Moroun’s ulitimate legacy.
Thursday, January 12, 7:00 pm:
The Michigan Court of Appeals has denied Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Maroun and president Dan Stamper's appeal requesting their release from jail.
Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards has sentenced billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner, Manuel "Matty" Moroun to jail for repeatedly failing to comply with his orders to finish a project that will connect the bridge to nearby expressways.
Dan Stamper, the president of the Detroit International Bridge Company (DIBC), has been ordered to serve jail time as well. The Detroit International Bridge Company owns the Ambassador Bridge.
The Detroit News has a photo of Moroun's reaction when the judge announced jail time.
The Detroit Free Press reports that Moroun's lawyers declined comment, "but said they would appeal immediately to the Michigan Court of Appeals."
The Michigan Department of Transportation began the lawsuit against the DIBC when the two entities had disagreements over how the pieces of the $230 million Gateway Project should fit together.
From the Free Press:
Michigan Department of Transportation Chief Operating Officer Greg Johnson said it would take at minimum a year to complete ramps, lanes and other unfinished elements of the project if the Bridge Company cooperated fully.
"We take no joy or satisfaction in seeing these men incarcerated," Johnson said, adding, the state only wants to see the project completed.
Local News 4 is reporting that "Matty Moroun has been handcuffed and led out of the courtroom while attorneys continue to speak on his behalf."
They report that Judge Edwards says the 84 year-old Moroun and Stamper will have to "stay in jail until the work is done. It's unclear how long that will be."
A little background - last November, we reported that Judge Edwards found Moroun in contempt of court by not complying with his 2010 orders to make changes to the Gateway Project.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Prentis Edwards says the Detroit International Bridge Company is “not complying and does not intend to comply” with a 2010 court order that directed them to make construction changes to the Gateway Project at the entrance of the American side of the bridge.
"The DIBC's conduct has served to impede the implementation of the Order of this Court and impair the authority of the Court," Edwards wrote in his opinion.
The Gateway Project is a long-delayed, $230 million joint project with the Michigan Department of Transportation, meant to better connect the bridge with surrounding highways.
Moroun's attorney asked that he go to jail instead of his client.
The Detroit Free Press is reporting that billionaire Ambassador Bridge owner, Manuel "Matty" Moroun has been ordered to serve jail time.
From the Free Press:
A Wayne County judge this morning threw billionaire Manuel (Matty) Moroun and his chief deputy at the bridge, Dan Stamper, to jail until they are in compliance with his order to finish building ramps connecting the Ambassador Bridge to nearby expressways.
Lawyers sought an immediate stay of his order, but Judge Prentis Edwards denied the motion.