Joe LaFurgey and 24 Hour News 8 web staff -
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Minister Louis Farrakhan, the controversial leader of the Nation of Islam, was in downtown Grand Rapids Wednesday as lawyers argued about accusations of a conspiracy in the drowning death of a local member of the organization.
Farrakhan and his entourage were inside the Kent County courthouse to support the family of Robert Dion Muhammad.
Muhammad, who led the Nation of Islam's Grand Rapids Study Group, disappeared after officials said he jumped off a sailboat for a swim in Muskegon Lake on Sept. 5, 2014. Crews found his body in 28 feet of water at the Muskegon State Park the day after, which also would have been his 40th birthday.
On Wednesday, lawyers for Muhammad's family were trying to amend a wrongful death suit. Defendants range from the people who were on the boat to first responders who searched for and later discovered Muhammad's body.
The victim's attorney claims there is sufficient evidence to suggest there might have been a conspiracy to cover up a murder, not an accident. He laid out a series of scenarios, pointing out signs of trauma to Muhammad's body -- which experts say is sometimes the result of recovery efforts -- and the fact that he had been on a boat with white co-workers before the drowning.
"It has been alleged multiple times that this (suit) is some political endeavor, as if we caused Robert Mohammad's death," the Muhmmads' attorney said, "as opposed to playing the hand that we've been dealt."
Attorneys for the defendants say the other side is trying to throw whatever it can at the wall and see what sticks.
"We really know that the pink elephant in the room is," the defendants' attorney said. "All they want to do is to make some presentation as to what could of, should of, maybe happened without any facts to support it."
Farrakhan is not one to shy away from controversy, but he declined to talk to reporters at the courthouse.
"We're good right now," one of the men with Farrakhan told the 24 Hour News 8 crew who approached him. "It's a sensitive case."
The judge turned down some of the motions requested by the plaintiff, but there are other matters to deal with. The hearing continues Thursday. It was not immediately known whether Farrakhan will be in attendance again.