Kwame Kilpatrick

5 minute read

The former Detroit mayor is moving to a new home Oct. 28th — a 15-by-10-foot county jail cell where he will spend the next 120 days for lying during a civil trial to conceal an extramarital affair. Kilpatrick resigned in September after 8 months of accusations, denials and litigation that cost the city millions of dollars and brought its political development to a halt.

The lawyer and ex-college football captain first came under fire in 2003, when two former police officers filed a civil lawsuit claiming they were fired for investigating reports of misconduct by two of Kilpatrick’s former bodyguards. During the court proceedings, one of the officers revealed Kilpatrick’s affair with his chief of staff, Christine Beatty, a childhood friend who had assisted his successful 1996 run for a seat in Michigan’s House of Representatives. (His mother, Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, vacated the seat to run for national office; she is now a U.S. representative and chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus).

In September 2007, the jury voted in favor of the officers and awarded them $6.5 million. Though he vowed to appeal the verdict, Kilpatrick eventually brokered a secret deal that awarded the officers $8.4 million in public money in exchange for their silence about the extramarital affair. Four months later, local media outlets used Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act to obtain all relevant trial documents and, in January, the Detroit Free Press published excerpts from the more than 14,000 intimate text messages sent between Beatty and Kilpatrick via city-issued pagers. In March, the local county prosecutor charged Kilpatrick and Beatty with official misconduct, perjury and obstruction of justice. In July, police added another charge to Kilpatrick’s record after he allegedly shoved and cursed at several officers who were trying to serve a subpoena to one of his friends.

But the sex-and-misconduct scandal was hardly Kilpatrick’s first brush with controversy. At 31, he was the youngest mayor in Detroit’s history — alternately dubbed “King Kwame” and the nation’s first “hip-hop mayor” — and seemed to embody the glamorous lifestyle of a paparazzi-starved star. He celebrated his inauguration in 2002 with “club crawls” of Detroit’s most exclusive bars, later claiming the events were intended to motivate the city’s disaffected youth. That he insisted on a 21-person security team drew ridicule from local residents and politicians, who were quick to note that even the mayor of Chicago, a city three times the size of Detroit, only required 15 bodyguards. He routinely donned a diamond-studded earring and wore flashy suits, even as the city’s budget crisis deepened and its population dwindled — threatening its rank as the nation’s 11th-largest city. In 2005, a local TV reporter revealed that Kilpatrick had leased a $25,000 Lincoln Navigator for his wife, Carlita, with whom he has three sons, through the city’s police department. He also charged more than $200,000 worth of spa treatments, Las Vegas hotel bills and restaurant tabs on a city-issued credit card. Such revelations were especially damning given his decision to cut nearly 7,000 government jobs and eliminate the city’s 24-hour bus service for budgetary reasons.

Since Kilpatrick’s resignation, Detroit politics have been in turmoil. Federal authorities are investigating several members of the city council for alleged bribery involving a multimillion-dollar sewage contract, and a public shouting match between councilwoman Monica Conyers and interim mayor Kenneth V. Cockrel has become a running joke among residents.

As for Kilpatrick, he may want to keep his lawyer on retainer. Last week, attorneys for the 14-year-old son of Tamara Greene, a 27-year-old exotic dancer who was killed in 2003, filed their witness list in a $150 million federal civil lawsuit against Kilpatrick and the city, alleging that the former mayor, his top aide and local police hindered the investigation into Greene’s murder because of her rumored presence at a 2002 party at the mayor’s Manoogian Mansion.

Quotes about Kilpatrick:

“A guy by the name of (Hermann) Goering said that the Jews were responsible for all the misery the Germans was having. One lie. And that lie caught on. And before it was all over, 6 million of them died.”
Kilpatrick’s father, Bernard, a former county commissioner, comparing his son’s persecution in the local media to Nazi propaganda. He later apologized. (The Detroit News, Oct. 28, 2005)

“This case is about as far from being a private matter as one can get.”
Kym Worthy, Wayne County, Mich., prosecutor, refuting Kilpatrick’s claim that his infidelity is a merely family concern (CNN, March 25, 2008)

“If it was not Kwame Kilpatrick sitting in that seat — if it was John Six-Pack sitting in the seat — what would I do? And the answer is simple.”
Judge Ronald Giles, on his decision to sentence Kilpatrick to a night in jail after Kilpatrick violated his bond by crossing state lines to make a trip to Windsor, Ontario (New York Times, Aug. 8, 2008)

“The sad thing is, Kwame Kilpatrick was becoming a good mayor and making some progress. He had a brilliant future.”
Michael Smith, Detroit historian, on Kilpatrick’s resignation (New York Times, Sept. 5, 2008)

Quotes by Kilpatrick:

“I have been disobedient to God and you know I made him some promises and I am getting a whooping for it.”
During a radio interview about the text messages that revealed his extramarital affair (Detroit WXMD-FM, Feb. 8, 2008)

“I don’t believe that a Nielsen rating is worth the life of my children or your children. This unethical, illegal lynch mob mentality has to stop.”
On receiving death threats against himself and his family (ABC News, March 13, 2008)

“I want to tell you, Detroit, that you done set me up for a comeback.”
Kilpatrick, announcing his resignation (USA Today, Sept. 4, 2008)

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