The billionaire became inmate No. 12-981, having lost his battle with a judge.
Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel (Matty) Moroun and top aide Dan Stamper traded in business suits for green prisoner's garb Thursday on their first day in Wayne County, Ill., jail for civil contempt of court.
Their Thursday evening appeal was denied by a three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals. That means the pair will stay in jail at least until the court hears further arguments, if any are made, or if the Wayne County judge who put them there relents.
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.
There's little privacy, with no door on the bathroom inside the cell in a section that also housed former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, among other notable inmates.
Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards ruled Nov. 4 that the Detroit International Bridge Co. was in civil contempt of court for defying his orders to finish the long-delayed Gateway project, a joint project with the Michigan Department of Transportation designed to ease border traffic at the Ambassador Bridge.
On Thursday, Edwards ordered the men to jail. They were ushered from the early morning hearing to spend at least one night behind bars. It was unclear when they might be released. The state appeals court could eventually rule in their favor, or order them freed on bond while their case is decided. Otherwise, they could face a lengthy jail stay.
Edwards said he was unswayed by attorneys' contention in court that Moroun and Stamper were resigning at that moment from the board of the bridge company and therefore no longer in a legal position to finish the $230-million Gateway project.
Edwards told the packed courtroom: "It is clear that the Detroit International Bridge Co. does not intend to comply with the court order unless meaningful sanctions are imposed."
Shortly after the jail sentence was handed out, the bridge company released a statement saying it would not accept the resignations and they were never in effect. "Nothing has changed in the hierarchy of the company's chain of command," Alan Upchurch, a spokesman for the bridge company, said in an e-mail.
'Business as usual'
Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon said late Thursday that the men were being treated like any other inmates, though Moroun's age, 84, merited careful monitoring. The jail infirmary is just down the hall from his cell.
Other than that, Napoleon said, the inmates presented no serious challenges. "Our job is to incarcerate those who have been remanded to the jail," Napoleon said. "Our business is business as usual."
With the remaining construction on Gateway likely to take six months to a year, it was unclear how much progress would have to be made to satisfy Edwards and spring Moroun and Stamper from jail.
The project is designed to ease border traffic by connecting the bridge directly to I-75 and I-96 through a series of new ramps and roads. It would allow truckers and other motorists to bypass local surface streets in southwest Detroit.
MDOT will be satisfied only with real signs of construction, chief operating officer Greg Johnson said.
"We take no joy or satisfaction in seeing these men incarcerated," he said after the hearing. "All we want -- all we've ever wanted -- is for the contract to be fulfilled so we can complete our project and move forward."
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