Detroit Mayor, Ex-Aide, Indicted

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[National News]

Kwame Kilpatrick, a one-time rising star in American urban politics who embraced his "Hip-Hop Mayor" image as Detroit's youngest elected leader, was charged Monday with perjury and other counts after sexually explicit text messages surfaced that appear to contradict his sworn denials of an affair with a top aide.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy also charged the charismatic and popular yet polarizing 37-year-old mayor with obstruction of justice and misconduct in office.

Former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty, 37, who also denied under oath that she and Kilpatrick shared a romantic relationship in 2002 and 2003, was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice.

In all, Worthy authorized a 12-count criminal information, which includes eight counts against Kilpatrick and seven against Beatty. Beatty and Kilpatrick are charged together in some counts and separately in others.

"This case was about as far from being a private matter as one can get. Honesty and integrity in the justice system is everything. That is what this case is about," Worthy said at a news conference.

"Just when did honesty and integrity, truth and honor become traits to be mocked, downplayed, ignored, laughed at or excuses made for them? When did telling the truth become a supporting player to everything else?"

The charges could signal the end of Kilpatrick's six-year career as mayor of one of America's largest cities.

Perjury is a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. But for Kilpatrick, a conviction also would mean his immediate expulsion from office. The Detroit City Charter calls for any elected official convicted of a felony while in office to be removed.

The mayor's office was expected to hold a noon news conference, saying "Mayor Kilpatrick will discuss his outlook on the current legal matter and his continued focus on governing the City of Detroit." As of 12:15 p.m., it had not started. A message seeking comment was left Monday with Beatty's attorney, Jeffrey Morganroth.

Kilpatrick has said he would not resign and last week said he expects to be vindicated when all aspects of the scandal are made public.

Worthy said she expected the mayor and Beatty to turn themselves in no later than 7 a.m. Tuesday. In all, Kilpatrick faces the following charges: conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice, misconduct in office, perjury in a court proceeding and two counts of perjury other than in a court proceeding.

Beatty is charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice, two counts of perjury in a court proceeding and two counts of perjury other than in a court proceeding.

"Our investigation has clearly shown that public dollars were used, people's lives were ruined, the justice system was severely mocked and the public trust trampled on," Worthy said.

Worthy said she has spoken to a lawyer for Beatty but was not able to contact Kilpatrick's attorney, leaving several messages.

She also said the investigation was ongoing and other people could be charged. She said she has had conversations with the U.S. attorney, but would not elaborate.

Worthy said she and her staff have pored over more than 40,000 pages of documents since January, when the Detroit Free Press published excerpts of sexually explicit text messages sent to Beatty's city-issued pager in 2002 and 2003.
The messages contradict statements Kilpatrick and Beatty gave under oath during a whistle-blowers' trial last summer when each denied an intimate relationship.

"Witnesses must give truthful testimony, and we have to demand that they do," Worthy said. "That is why they take an oath. There are variations on courtroom oaths, but basically an oath says, 'I do solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony that we are about to give in this case will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.'

"The oath does not say, 'I do solemnly swear or affirm that the testimony I'm about to give in this matter will be some of the truth, some of the time, when it suits me, and anything but the whole truth.'"

Worthy began her investigation the day after the Free Press published excerpts of the embarrassing text messages in late January. The messages called into question testimony Kilpatrick and Beatty gave in a lawsuit filed by two police officers who alleged they were fired for investigating claims that the mayor used his security unit to cover up extramarital affairs.

In court, Kilpatrick and Beatty denied having an intimate relationship, but the text messages reveal that they carried on a flirty, sometimes sexually explicit dialogue about where to meet and how to conceal their trysts.

The lawsuit ended with the jury awarding $6.5 million to the two officers in September. A defiant Kilpatrick vowed to appeal the verdict, but a month later said settling the suit was in the best interests of Detroit. The city agreed to pay out $8.4 million to the two officers and a third former officer who filed a separate lawsuit.

Documents released last month showed Kilpatrick agreed to the settlement in an effort to keep the text messages from becoming public.

During the trial last summer, Mike Stefani, a lawyer for the officers, asked Beatty if she and Kilpatrick were "either romantically or intimately involved" during the period covered by the case.

"No," she replied, rolling her eyes.

The mayor, while on the witness stand, later went on the offensive about the allegations, defending his reputation and that of Beatty.

"I think it was pretty demoralizing to her - you have to know her - but it's demoralizing to me as well," he testified. "My mother is a congresswoman. There have always been strong women around me. My aunt is a state legislator. I think it's absurd to assert that every woman that works with a man is a whore."

Yet the text messages published by the Free Press revealed a romantic discourse.

"I'm madly in love with you," Kilpatrick wrote on Oct. 3, 2002.

"I hope you feel that way for a long time," Beatty replied. "In case you haven't noticed, I am madly in love with you, too!"
On Oct. 16, 2002, Kilpatrick wrote Beatty: "I've been dreaming all day about having you all to myself for 3 days. Relaxing, laughing, talking, sleeping and making love."

Kilpatrick is married with three children. Beatty was married at the time and has two children.

Kilpatrick went into a nearly weeklong seclusion after the Free Press' report. But on Jan. 30, with his wife, Carlita, at his side, the mayor emerged to apologize to Detroiters on live television for mistakes he had made, avoiding direct mention of the text messages. However, it was a confident Kilpatrick who told city residents he would see them "at work tomorrow."

For Beatty, who attended Detroit's Cass Technical High School with Kilpatrick and managed his campaigns for Michigan's state House and the mayor's office, the scandal forced her to resign.

Over the next six weeks, city lawyers and Kilpatrick's attorneys waged a futile legal battle to keep documents related to the lawsuit settlement and text messages from public eyes.

Calls for his resignation surfaced in late January from some city union leaders. Michigan Attorney General Mike Cox repeated that call, and the Detroit City Council echoed it last week with a nonbinding resolution asking Kilpatrick to step down. The council approved the $8.4 million payout but didn't know about the revealing text messages or the secret deal to keep them quiet and now is conducting its own investigation into the mayor's handling of the case.

City Council President Ken Cockrel Jr., who would succeed Kilpatrick as mayor if he leaves office, said he was surprised at the number of charges, though he stressed the council still has a job to do.

"Of course, this has now become a part of our daily duties and responsibilities, but the way I see it, the job of the city and the business of the city has to go on," he told reporters after Worthy's announcement. "On a personal level, certainly it's a tragedy for him, although one could argue that he set himself up for it. The moves he made led to this."

The Detroit Free Press hasn't explained how it obtained the 14,000 text messages, which were sent or received in 2002-03 from Beatty's city-issued pager. The newspaper said it cross-referenced the messages with the mayor's private calendar and credit card records to verify events in some of the notes.

Controversy has surrounded Kilpatrick since his 2001 election as mayor.

Embraced by many Detroit residents for his boldness and confidence, Kilpatrick, then 31, embodied the new black politician and wore a diamond stud earring that helped foster his unofficial title as "Hip-Hop Mayor."

His first four years were marred by use of his city-issued credit card for expensive travel, the city's lease of a luxury Lincoln Navigator for his wife and unsubstantiated allegations of a wild party involving his security team and strippers at the mayor's mansion.

At the start of his second term, Kilpatrick vowed to not make the same mistakes and announced a residential redevelopment along Detroit's dormant riverfront, hosted a successful Super Bowl that shone a light on the city's renewal efforts and initiated other improvements.

He had been expected to seek a third term in 2009.

(Associated Press Writer)




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