Published November 18, 2005
LANSING (AP) A-A-- Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox told detectives he first learned several months ago that Geoffrey Fieger could retaliate against him for investigating the brash lawyer's $457,000 payment for negative ads in the 2004 state Supreme Court election.
Cox, in a Nov. 7 interview with Oakland County investigators, said lawyer Lee O'Brien - a key figure in the Cox-Fieger imbroglio - told him in a casual manner that Fieger was upset about the campaign finance investigation and might retaliate against him.
The face-to-face encounter occurred sometime in late summer, Cox said. Cox and his wife were at a Livonia restaurant when the attorney general approached O'Brien, who had pulled his vehicle up to the curb.
Cox's statements, detailed in a one-page summary by a sheriff's detective, were included in documents and tapes released by Oakland County Prosecutor David Gorcyca under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act. The statements show Cox may have known before October of potential ramifications if he continued the Fieger investigation. In October, Fieger alluded to Cox's infidelity on a public television show and, according to Cox, told O'Brien to threaten the attorney general.
Gorcyca announced Tuesday that he would not file charges against Fieger or O'Brien, and Fieger said there was never a scintilla of evidence that he committed a crime. O'Brien also maintains his innocence.
In a phone interview earlier this week, Cox said he did not know O'Brien very well, only in the sense that "I know hundreds of other lawyers." Cox spokeswoman Melissia Christianson said yesterday that O'Brien played a "minor role" in raising money for Cox's 2002 campaign.
But O'Brien, in conversations secretly taped by Cox staffer Stu Sandler, said he was a friend of Cox. O'Brien also said he earned "a million bucks a year" from Fieger by referring legal cases to him.
According to Sandler, O'Brien left a voicemail for him on Oct. 12 saying he wanted to deliver a threat from Fieger.
Sandler, Cox's external affairs director, wore a wire during two meetings in Novi with O'Brien on Oct. 14 at a bar and Oct. 17 at a bookstore. He did not wear the surveillance equipment when meeting with Fieger and O'Brien later on the 17th. In the conversations - often profanity-laced - O'Brien talked about both Fieger and Cox.
"Look, your guy (Cox), that's why I threw parties for him. ... I didn't even want him to win. I just liked him 'cause he did me favors. - And you know, actually I like Cox more than Fieger, to be honest with you. Personally, I think Cox is a more honorable (expletive) man than, uh, Fieger. But I make money off Fieger."
O'Brien said Fieger gave him the "names of two broads" with whom Cox had sex "in the line of duty." Cox, who came clean about an affair last week, has acknowledged having an affair with one of the women. He denies the other allegation.
Sandler told investigators O'Brien gave him a piece of paper with the two names on Oct. 17, before the two met Fieger.
In one conversation, O'Brien suggested that if Cox and Fieger came to a truce, Fieger would call off "whatever he's planning on doing."
O'Brien also suggested Fieger might not do anything until Cox did something. "Like last week, (Fieger) was screaming at me that, you know, you guys were threatening his family. I said, what do you mean, threatening your family? He said, well, when they threaten me, they threaten my family."
Sandler responded: "Well, he's threatening Mike's family. I mean, that's pretty obvious."
"I agree," O'Brien said. "It's stupid. What have either of them got to gain out of it? Fieger's spending personal money on it. They're both probably losing sleep over it. And, uh, they can slander each other in the paper. It, it's just, I mean I don't see it being a good situation for either one of 'em."