Palokaj trial delayed until April 20

By: Kevin Bunch | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published April 12, 2016


MOUNT CLEMENS — A man accused of holding another person against his will and torturing him to extort money on July 31, 2015, has seen his trial date slip from April 6 to April 20.

Edward Palokaj, 39, has his trial before Judge Mary Chrzanowski scheduled for 8 a.m. April 20 in Macomb County Circuit Court. He is facing three felony charges: extortion, torture and unlawful imprisonment.

Palokaj’s attorney, Stephen Rabaut, could not be reached for comment by press time.

Testimony at Palokaj’s preliminary exam Aug. 28, 2015, at the 39th District Court painted a strange picture where Palokaj and an associate, James Leggett, had intended to buy a restaurant and needed to put down $10,000 each.

Leggett testified that he had known Palokaj for two years, having met him while paying money that Leggett owed to Palokaj’s father, and that Leggett and Palokaj had “consulted with each other” multiple times about buying a business called Marcus Hamburgers.

After staying overnight with Palokaj and his girlfriend in her Roseville home, Leggett visited Fifth Third Bank and tried unsuccessfully to access his brother’s account to get his part of the down payment. Afterward, Leggett said that he suggested talking to his boss, but that Palokaj said they had to go back to Roseville and discuss the matter.

Palokaj then became increasingly angry during their talk in the basement, Leggett testified.

“He said, ‘This isn’t a game. You think this is a game,’” Leggett said in his testimony. “I’m trying to talk to him, (saying) ‘Let’s try to do this; let me see what I can do.’ He had my phone and put it aside, and then he grabbed a white cord and tied my right wrist. That’s when he started tying me to the chair.”

Leggett said he was in shock and it prevented him from doing anything at that point, and Leggett alleged that Palokaj started waterboarding him with water jugs and a white cloth. Palokaj also allegedly slapped Leggett, splashed scalding water on his chest, singed his chest hair with a blowtorch, pulled on his lips with pliers and stuck a nail into his thigh. He also allegedly demanded money and told Leggett that his mother would have to “bury him,” making additional threats about Leggett’s daughter.

Eventually, Leggett said, Palokaj was able to get in touch with Leggett’s boss and had Leggett ask about the money via speakerphone; when they drove out to pick it up, Southfield police were on hand and apprehended Palokaj.

Palokaj’s previous attorney, Todd Flood, argued at that time that Leggett’s cellphone showed more than 60 phone calls were made between 10:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. — when the incident allegedly took place — and that Leggett had not made any claims of being in trouble in any of those calls. Leggett said that Palokaj had his phone for much of that time.

Roseville police testified that they found a broken rocking chair, pliers, a hammer and nails, a blowtorch and water jugs at the scene.