DETROIT (WWJ/WXYT) - Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun is a billionaire behind bars and a judge wants him, and Detroit International Bridge Company President Dan Stamper, to stay there until the I-75 Gateway Project is finished.
Attorneys for Moroun plan to file a second appeal Friday to get the 84-year-old businessman out of jail. Moroun and his top aide Stamper were ordered to jail Thursday for civil contempt — after their company failed to finish the $230 million Gateway Project to improve interchanges leading to the bridge between Detroit and Canada.
Moroun has been locked in a legal fight for years to prevent the state from building a second, publicly-owned span to Canada. Engaged in battle with the state, Moroun refused to meet the Michigan Department of Transportation’s 2008 deadline to improve traffic to the existing bridge. In the meantime, trucks are using neighborhood roads, enraging neighbors, and they say, endangering them.
On Thursday, lawyers for Moroun and Stamper asked the Michigan Court of Appeals to release them, saying their clients’ rights have been violated. That request was denied.
WWJ Legal Analyst and Talk Radio 1270 morning show host Charlie Langton explained what will likely happen next.
“The judge is going to take control of this project. The judge is probably going to appoint someone, a different company or maybe MDOT, to complete this project at the cost to Matty Moroun. After a day or so in jail, that will wake up everybody and if I was representing Matty Moroun, I would propose that to the judge right now,” said Langton.
It’s understandable for the judge to be frustrated, but Langton thinks he might have stepped over the line by throwing Moroun in jail.
“The bottom line here, we want to get this project done. The judge is frustrated, I understand that, the judge is right, but to use the power of contempt to throw somebody in jail is extreme,” said Langton.
Having years of experience in the courtroom, what would Langton have done if he was in charge of the case?
“What I would have done if I was the judge is I would have said, ‘OK Matty Moroun and the Bridge Company, you are done, you are off the project and I’m going to appoint someone at your cost,’” said Langton.
“That would solve two problems. It would solve the problem of getting the bridge done and it would also prevent an 84-year-old person from going to jail, who has got no previous criminal record, who may not even be involved necessarily in the day-to-day operations of this Bridge Company,” he continued.
Langton said attorneys for the pair might appeal to the State Supreme Court, but he doubts they could win freedom there.
Meantime, Moroun’s son Matthew said his dad was “blindsided” by the judge’s order.