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Bridge Owner Matty Moroun Jailed For Contempt

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Manuel "Matty" Moroun, left, and Dan Stamper (Booking Photos)

Manuel “Matty” Moroun, left, and Dan Stamper (Booking Photos)

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DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - The 84-year-old owner of Detroit’s Ambassador Bridge will remain in jail, at least for a while. The State Court of Appeals has denied a request for the immediate release of  Manuel “Matty” Moroun and his top lieutenant Dan Stamper.

Wayne County Judge Prentis Edwards Thursday ordered the pair to jail for failing to meet court-ordered deadlines on a construction project.

Edwards said Moroun and Stamper will stay locked up until the work is done. It’s unclear how long that will be.

Detroit International Bridge Co. was declared in contempt of court in November for failing to finish work on a project linking the U.S.-Canada span with two Detroit interstates.

Lawyers for Moroun claim he’s really not the owner. They say a Moroun trust has a minority stake in a holding company that owns the bridge. But state officials say Moroun clearly is in charge.

WWJ Newsradio 950′s Florence Walton reported attorneys for Stamper and Moroun are feverishly trying to keep them from staying in jail for a long time

The lawyers, Thursday afternoon, called for an appeal of the order, saying Moroun and Stamper’s rights have been violated. They say their clients were never warned that they might be sent to jail.

Talk Radio 1270 morning show host and WWJ legal analyst Charlie Langton said the move by the judge is not unprecedented.  This is the same judge who jailed Stamper in 2010.

“Why? A year ago they did not follow the judge’s order,” said Langton. “It’s a simple order. Just complete the project, do what you are supposed to. Fix the gateway bridge, connect those freeways, and eliminate congestion in this neighborhood. But they didn’t do it.”

“All of the creative legal maneuvering is not going to prevent this judge from exercising this order. The judge has the discretion, under the contempt powers of the judge, and that includes jail, and the judge says enough is enough,” Langton said.

Bridge officials last summer told WWJ the Gateway Project would be completed in early 2012 only if M-DOT re-opened freeway ramps in the area. The judge had ordered that, regardless, work be was to be completed by now. (More on this here).

Thursday afternoon, the bridge company issued the following statement:

“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.”

Moroun’s son Matthew Moroun told WWJ his father was “blindsided” by the ruling. He said the judge should never have thrown an 84-year-old man in jail. (Listen to the interview, here).

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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