BEYOND THE TEXT MESSAGES
Detroit Mayor Is Charged With Eight Felonies
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
CHICAGO, March 24 -- Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick (D), who wore a diamond earring and pledged an urban renaissance in Detroit when he won election as America's youngest big-city mayor in 2001, was charged Monday with eight felonies in an obstruction-of-justice case that could end his once-promising career.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said Kilpatrick lied to a jury and settled a whistle-blower lawsuit with $8.4 million in tax dollars to hide a romantic affair with his chief of staff. If convicted, the 37-year-old politician once dubbed the "playah mayah" will lose his job and could face prison.
The Detroit City Council voted 7 to 1 last week to demand Kilpatrick's resignation, but with his defense attorney beside him, Kilpatrick vowed Monday to fight on. He predicted a "full and complete vindication" and said he will do the city's business while awaiting trial.
"I look forward to complete exoneration once all the facts surrounding this matter have been brought forward," said Kilpatrick, sounding uncommonly subdued as he read a prepared statement.
Kilpatrick apologized on television in January after the Detroit Free Press revealed steamy text messages that contradicted his sworn statements that he had no romantic relationship with Christine Beatty, 37, who resigned in February. He said it was a private matter, something he would work out with his wife.
But Worthy, announcing 12 criminal counts -- eight name Kilpatrick, and seven name Beatty -- said the case was not simply about sex, or even about lying about sex. Referring to a deputy police chief and a former mayoral bodyguard who were fired after they began asking questions, Worthy said, "This case is about as far from being a private matter as one could get."
"Our investigation has clearly shown that public dollars were used, people's lives were ruined, the justice system was clearly mocked, and the public trust trampled on," Worthy said. "Witnesses must give truthful testimony. Oaths mean something."
Worthy, who led an eight-week investigation, charged that city lawyers blocked her work "at every bend and turn." She said prosecutors were told that documents had been destroyed or lost -- "we don't know when or by whom."
Defense attorney Dan Webb said Kilpatrick and Beatty were unfairly singled out. He said he intends to seek dismissal of the charges on grounds of selective prosecution and will challenge the right of prosecutors to introduce the text messages.
"If they select one person to be made an example of, that's improper use of discretion," said Webb, a former U.S. attorney in Chicago, who reported that he knows of no previous Wayne County perjury cases rooted in testimony from a civil case.
Kilpatrick's personal and professional dramas have riveted Detroit since soon after he became mayor at 31. By then, the talented and silver-tongued son of Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-Mich.) had been elected Democratic leader of the Michigan House. But once in the mayor's office, he soon got into trouble.
In his first three years, he rang up more than $200,000 on his city credit card even as he laid off hundreds of city workers. He and his aides spent $144,000 in city petty cash on items that included catered meals for the weekly cabinet meeting and tickets to Rolling Stones concerts and Detroit Lions football games.