New low for Kilpatrick defense team: Lawyer shoves Pulitzer Prize-Winning Reporter, challenges him to fight

Rataj, Mike

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Few reporters are as dogged and fearless as M.L. Elrick.

The former Free Press reporter won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009, along with coworker Jim Schaefer, for breaking a text-messaging scandal that forced then-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick to resign and land behind bars.

Fast forward to today, when Kilpatrick’s defense team ended closing statements in the federal corruption trial.

Standing outside the courtroom in downtown Detroit, Elrick asked attorney, Mike Rataj, who represents a co-defendant, whether he was suggesting the government was racist – a sensible question since, well, that’s what the former mayor has been saying for years.

“Did I say anything like that?” Rataj snapped back, repeating the question several times. “You are an ignorant moron.”

Rataj turned around before Elrick did what any reporter would do – asked the lawyer to clarify the team’s position on the race and government.

“Be a man!” Elrick said firmly, as Rataj walked away.

Rataj whipped around and shoved Elrick.

“You wanna go right now, Elrick?” he asked, pointing his finger at the much-taller, unfazed reporter. “You wanna challenge me? You wanna challenge me? You wanna challenge me? What last word do you want, you piece of garbage?”

Elrick maintained his composure – and stood his ground.

Check out the video:

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.